It is another week in which Theresa May has to make seemingly impossible demands on her cabinet, her party, Labor MPs and EU negotiators.
By Wednesday, the prime minister must give the European Council a credible reason to extend the UK's Brexit negotiation period again – and any reason she could give is one that could split her party at home.
Unless a new date is canceled during an EU emergency stop on Wednesday, Britain will leave on 12 April without an agreement. May wrote Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, requesting a short extension until June 30, preferably with a deal reached on May 23, to cancel the EU elections. The date would mean that Britain could leave before the new European parliament officially came.
The Prime Minister's letter suggested that she hoped to convince the EU that there is indeed a plan for this extension period – it gives time for negotiations with Labor to continue seriously and reach an agreement between the parties.
There are only two problems with this approach: labor and the EU. The chances that May and Jeremy Corbyn turn up hand in hand in the rose garden of Downing Street after they have signed a pact to pass a Brexit deal are almost zero.
Labor sources insist that they did not leave the negotiations, but those close to the talks were surprised at how little the government seemed to offer.
A weekend briefing suggests that more will be on the table next week, but there is little politically to gain for Labor to close a deal anyway.
As a labor minister in a heavy-handed move said, "I have Momentum and my remaining membership that tells me to vote against the deal, and I have my local Ukip branch and Brexit campaigners who told me to vote against the deal. Tell exactly how we will be rewarded electorally for helping the Tories pass their Brexit deal? & # 39;
The second problem is May's credibility in Brussels. The EU has already rejected May & # 39; s suggestion of 30 June as a plausible exit date and it remains unattractive, although not impossible.
The reason goes beyond the obvious difficulties of a potential cliff during the transition in the EU parliament. The conditions of Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, and Tusk himself would also end.
Despite all the difficulties, the EU can still accept the deadline of 30 June – or set its own timetable, as happened at the last EU summit.
Tusk is in favor of a "flex extension", a longer period with an option to leave earlier once the withdrawal agreement has been ratified by parliament. However, this may also encounter problems for Member States.
In particular, French President Emmanuel Macron, who has ambitious plans for EU reforms, does not want other EU priorities to be undermined by a year of endless repetitions of the Brexit cliff edge.
More digestible, according to En Marche MP Alexandre Holroyd on BBC Radio 5 Live, would be a much longer reset period for Britain to give the UK time to think about leaving the block – perhaps not at all.
There is also unease about this approach. What if the UK becomes a highly disruptive member state? Holroyd was clear: as a resigning member, the UK should not be able to play a full role in determining the future EU budget or its future leadership during prolonged extensions.
Such a situation is highly unpleasant for most cabinet employees and even for the most moderate conservative MPs. They are another problem for May, a challenge they face when a long extension is the only offer from the EU.
Cabinet sources would like to emphasize that May only has the support of the majority of her cabinet for a short extension of Article 50. Even gentle ministers such as Matt Hancock and James Brokenshire made it clear that that was all they wanted.
Brandon Lewis, the party chairman, gave terrible warnings about the hammer that the Tories could expect in the local and EU elections should they be held, and Tory activists swore on the weekend to go on strike.
Ultimately, as so often before, May may be forced to outsource the decision to parliament. If at the end of the month Yvette Cooper's bill on the extension of Article 50 breaks the last hurdles in the House of Lords and receives royal approval, the parliament will be given time to decide on the duration of the extension that May must request.
By the time May arrives to meet EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday, the Prime Minister may no longer be in charge of her own demands.