Sunday’s approval at the European Union summit of the Brexit draft withdrawal treaty will drive Britain closer to the unhappy and unnecessary ending of a 45-year story. But whether it comes to fruition ~ as Theresa May wishes and many among the Conservatives don’t ~ is as yet far from certain. It is ever so uncertain whether Britain’s Prime Minister will be able to pilot her deal successfully in the House of Commons next month.

Trends over the past few weeks scarcely inspire optimism. True the signing of any deal per se is a moment in history; by that token the development in Brussels can be reckoned to be a forward movement of sorts. Mrs May has observed that a “new chapter in our national lives is beginning”; the precise content of that narrative remains vague more than two years after the momentous referendum.

The foes within are formidable; in comparison, the signing-off by the EU-27, so-called, was a relatively easy part of the overall construct. Small wonder that Sunday’s ceremony was not greeted with a scintilla of euphoria; there is a red herring too many across the trail.

Indeed, unmistakable was the degree of despond in the EU headquarters ~ “It is a sad day, not a day to celebrate”, even “tragic”, was the plaintive response of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Mrs May was perhaps obligated to put up a brave face, saying that she was full of optimism about the future of the country. But the past weeks have underscored that the Brexit deal cannot be beneficial for Britain, not to forget Ireland and Scotland.

On closer reflection, Britain has brought the current situation upon itself. It must of necessity heal the self-harm in order to forestall further damage. The nub of the matter must be that Britain is already damaged and diminished, weakened in its dealings with the other EU members and the world in the wider canvas. This has been borne out by the last-minute tussle over Gibralter. The EU is with Spain, as the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has reaffirmed. Equally, Spain is with the EU.

The UK will be on a relatively weak wicket if it goes solo in negotiations, notably on the trade deals, with the US, China and others. The “Remain” ministers have reportedly formed a new “Gang of Five”, hoping to compel Mrs May to adopt a softer Brexit after the almost certain defeat in the Commons vote.

The campaign for a second referendum is gaining momentum among both the public and politicians. Brexit is an economic and political disaster, fuelling, not healing, divisions. As the extent of the folly gets increasingly clearer, the epilogue becomes ever so uncertain. It is unlikely that Brexit will solve the problems that prompted the referendum on 23 June 2016.