I see Jacob Rees-Mogg and his preposterous European Research Group (ERG) have begun work on a “positive” blueprint for Britain to leave the EU. Begun! They’ve begun to explore how Brexit could work on a No Deal basis.

At the same time, Leave Means Leave and every other crackpot outfit hoping to restore the false purity of a No Deal, hard Brexit are cranking up their latest Heath-Robinson machinery, desperate to secure something – anything – from the shambles of the last two years.

Has no one told them that the big decisions on Britain’s future relationship with the EU are supposed to be taken just weeks from now and then put to the parliaments of all 28 members states, including the UK? The clock is not just ticking, the alarm is about to go off.

Time’s up.

Or do they just want to delay the key decisions for another two years and drive us all mad in the process? Don’t they realise the country needs to be governed?

Until the Chequers plan came along, I had reluctantly accepted that there was no further point in whingeing about Brexit. I wrote as much several times on this very website. We just had to get on with it on the best available terms, I said.

More fool me. The Tories don’t know what they’re doing. There is as much chance of the present Government securing a good deal for Britain as an orchestra of monkeys would have attempting to play Beethoven’s Eroica. They haven’t an ounce of sense between them. And Labour, lost in the 1970s like a lost episode of Life on Mars, has become an embarrassment as well as an irrelevance.

It isn’t only card-carrying Remainers who now think leaving the EU is foolhardy. According to analysis of the latest polls, a significant minority of Leave voters, horrified by the Government’s bungled handling of the negotiations and newly aware of the implications of a “sovereign” Britain, have changed their minds and wish to turn the clock back to the morning of June 23, 2016.

They don’t like the EU and they resent the granite face it has turned towards us in the last two years. They know the 27 have serious problems to resolve, especially over Third World immigration, and they have seen how individual member states, notably Italy, have simultaneously dug holes for themselves and then lost the plot. But they also know that the alternative to membership in an increasingly unruly world is dark and uncharted – a journey into the unknown. By contrast, the devil they know is starting to look, if not exactly beguiling, at least intellectually coherent.

Which is why I now submit that only by reversing course, even at this late stage, can we hope to regain lost ground. Revoking Article 50 would require us, following a second referendum, to approach M. Barnier with our tail between our legs, which would be an undignified and pitiful spectacle, to say the least. But such is the price of failure. We brought this on ourselves and have no one else to blame.

Consider the alternatives. There is No Deal, of course, favoured by UKIP, the ERG and Ulster’s DUP. Even if Rees-Mogg & Co have “begun” to work on it, it remains a non-starter. We would be like a WWII tanker that refused to join a convoy, hoping that its helmsman, aided by a couple of sharp lookouts, would protect it from attack by U-Boats.

Canada with gold knobs on is the second option. You will remember how David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, described it on the Andrew Marr Show: “What we want is a bespoke outcome. We’ll probably start with the best of Canada, the best of Japan and the best of South Korea and then add to that the bits that are missing, which is services. Canada plus plus plus would be one way of putting it … it’s not that complicated.”

Except that it was. Barnier, backed by France and Germany, was scathing in response. Britain could have a deal like Canada’s (which took seven years to negotiate). But that was all. Japan and South Korea didn’t come into it. Services would definitely not be included and non-tariff barriers would be put in place for goods the moment the UK deviated from EU rules and standards.

It is worth adding that a Canada-style arrangement that kept Britain out of both the Single Market and the Customs Union would do nothing to solve the Irish Border Question. But, hey, since when was that a problem? According to Rees-Mogg, we would simply ask Brussels to forget about Ireland and concentrate on, well … England.

Third up is the proposal that we should rejoin the European Free Trade Association (Efta), granting us continuing membership of the European Economic Area and thus full access to the Single Market, including services. There is much that is positive about the so-called Norway option. It could work (novel in itself), and it would solve the Irish border issue at a stroke.

The bugger of it is three-fold. First, the Prime minister has explicitly ruled it out. She says we will absolutely not remain part of the Single Market or Customs Union, and of the possible alternatives to May only Michael Gove would even consider Norway.  Second, the EU would expect the free movement of labour to continue much as it is now, which to No Deal Brexiteers would be a call to arms. The political fallout would continue for years.

Finally, why go for a solution that, as its main sales pitch, aims to give us less than we have already? Efta is a fallback position should all else fail. Though we would continue to be bound by the rules of the Single Market and the Customs Union, we would have lost our seats in the European Commission and the Court of Justice, along with our voice in the European Council and representation in the European Parliament. How would that go down with voters during times of crisis or major change?

So that’s it. We’re stymied. We have painted ourselves into a corner, with nowhere left to turn – which is why we must now take a quantum leap into the past.

I said earlier that time is up. And that is true. The one thing that could stop the clock, with the assurance of backing from the 27, is a second referendum. We need to correct the error that brought this nightmare about. Individuals are allowed to change their minds. Why not the nation? If voters, having had ample time in which to reflect on the car-crash that is Brexit, think continued membership of the EU is a better bet than either No Deal or a bad deal, shouldn’t they be allowed to say so?

The risk, of course, is that the result second time around would be the same as the first, or that Remain wins by so small a margin that Leave takes to the streets. But I don’t believe it, and as they say in New Jersey, waddyagonnado? Project Fear may have been overkill, but the Golden Age we were promised by Leave is as much based in reality as the return of King Arthur.

The United Kingdom is no longer admired for its boldness in deciding to quit Europe. Instead, having transformed what was supposed to be a heroic drama into a Whitehall farce in which nobody gets to keep their trousers on, we have ended up as both a bad joke and a terrible warning.

Brexit Britain, once billed as if it were a thoroughbred stallion (Dunkirk out of Agincourt) has ended up more like Boxer, the shire horse in Animal Farm, betrayed and destined for the knacker’s yard.

But not all is lost. We just have to be brave and admit our error. Brussels will be scornful, but it will also be forgiving (which for some may be harder to take). John Maynard Keynes knew what to do when the facts changed. So should we all.