Brexit is dead,’ the Minister told me. ‘Some rebels might start to come round, but it’s too late. On Monday the House of Commons will take control of the process and then it’s over.’
A Downing Street aide agreed. ‘We’ve managed to hold them off for as long as we can. But we only stopped the Commons by two votes last time, and that was because Paul Flynn’s seat was vacant and Fiona Onasanya [the Labour MP jailed for lying about a speeding offence] was with her parole officer. It’s done now.’
Brexit was supposed to be a moment of national catharsis. Instead, it is about to go down as the greatest fraud ever perpetrated upon the British people.
Everything they were promised before, during and after the 2016 referendum was a lie. They were told they would cast a single vote and it would be honoured.
They were told if they voted to leave, untold riches would flow into the NHS and other public services.
They were told the EU would be resistant, but then capitulate at the thought of John Bull turning his back on imports of prosecco and BMWs.
And as MPs begged again for their votes in the 2017 Election, they were told once more that their decision to leave would be respected and enacted.
Tomorrow, each and every one of those promises will turn to dust on the floor of the Commons chamber.
The plan first contrived in secret by Dominic Grieve and Speaker John Bercow in his ornate apartments will finally come to fruition. MPs will take back control.
And the process of erasing Brexit from history, and replacing it with a customs union, or a single market, or a new common market will commence.
Not that the MPs themselves want it framed this way. When Theresa May accused them last week of pitting themselves against the public, they reacted with fury. The Prime Minister was undermining the very foundation of parliamentary democracy, they warned.
Others claimed their personal safety was being put at risk. ‘I’m going back to my constituency this weekend and I’m worried,’ one Tory backbencher admitted. ‘I think something is going to happen.’
Such fears are tragically not without foundation. But another fundamental principle of our democracy is that our elected representatives are held up to scrutiny and criticism. And while she might have expressed herself clumsily, Theresa May was right.
MPs were issued an instruction by the British people. Given the Byzantine complexity of the Brexit process, it would be foolish to pretend it was a simple one. But it was clear. They were told to withdraw the UK from the European Union.
They refused. Granted 1,000 days to reach consensus on an exit strategy, they had neither the competence nor the courage nor the foresight nor the sense of national duty to construct one.
A process driven by public resentment at a political class addicted to telling voters to shut up and sit down because their politicians know best, is ending with the squalid spectacle of the referendum result being torn up by politicians who absolutely know they know best.
Fine. MPs have made their choice. But now they must live with it. They must be free to conduct their affairs safe from physical threats and intimidation. But there will be no escape from the political backlash set to engulf them.
Remain MPs are confident they will be insulated from it. Secure in constituencies that represent the 48 per cent, they believe they have found sanctuary. They have not. The impending implosion of public trust – one that will make the expenses scandal look like a model of good governance – will consume everything and everyone.
It will be they, rather than the Brexiteers, who become custodians of the ravaged post-Brexit landscape. And, most significantly of all, they will have proven the Brexiteers right.
The great conspiracy narrative – ‘even if you vote to Leave, they will never let you’ – will have been embedded for all time.
But at least the Remainers can claim success. Their political strategy has worked. Which cannot be said for the diehards of the ERG.
If it was not for the little corporals of Brexit, we would be leaving the EU in five days’ time. All they needed to do was swallow a bit of pride, bide some time, and victory was theirs.
But they couldn’t help themselves. Hubris, vanity, self-importance and ideological intransigence have claimed them.
They could not have played a more destructive role in the Brexit denouement had they been personally trained by Peter Mandelson, Andrew Adonis and Gina Miller, and despatched to do their bidding. In the end, the self-styled champions of Brexit turned out to be the Manchurian Remainers.
Which brings us to the architect – or rather curator – of this whole catastrophe. Like others, I have written countless words about the Prime Minister’s strength and resilience. But Brexit has finally broken her.
Watching her railing against the self-indulgence of MPs, I was reminded of that moment Kevin Keegan began raging at how he ‘would luv it!’ if Newcastle United beat Manchester United to the Premier League title. The passion and commitment were there. But psychologically and emotionally she was spent.
Theresa May’s premiership is over. But there is one last service she can render her nation.
Tomorrow, when she addresses Parliament, she must name a date for her departure. She must then lay to rest the fantasy she intends to lead Britain out of the EU without a deal. And she must then present the Commons with the truth. It is now either her deal or the end of Brexit. It might not be enough. It probably won’t be enough. But there is a final, faint hope it could bring MPs to their senses.
And even if it does not, it will allow her to regain the self-respect her parliamentary colleagues are so intent on squandering.
Tomorrow, MPs will begin dismantling Brexit. When the vote is announced confirming they have taken control of the parliamentary process and timetable, they will cheer and wave their order papers and slap one another on the back.
Those cheers will then reverberate. They will reach the pubs and the housing estates and the shop-floors of the nation. And they will reach the ears of people who recall what their MPs promised them in 2016, and set that against what they actually delivered.
People who will never forget. And people who never forgive.