The no-deal vote will be the big one that decides if Theresa May survives

May Credit: PA

Theresa May's opposition to ruling out a no-deal Brexit looks increasingly like defiance of the laws of gravity.

On Monday we'll see at least two motions laid against the PM's amendable motion on its Brexit plan - the Boles one, which would legislate to force the government to sue the EU for a nine-month delay to Brexit, in the event that no-deal loomed, and a Spelman/Dromey one, which would more simply express the will of the House against no-deal.

Now the calamity for May's opposition to no-deal is not just that a majority of backbench MPs would support one or both of these motions - which are likely to be put to the vote on 29 January - but that significant numbers of her own ministers would feel obliged to defy her will and also support them.

May faces difficulty getting her own ministers to back her vote. Credit: PA

Here are some choice quotes from ministers who are thinking of doing just that, and for obvious reasons wish to stay anonymous (for now).

Minister A: "This looks the only way of stopping no deal".

I asked how many government rebels there are. "From what I hear 15 to 25," said minister A.

So I put the same question to minister B: "Hard to be sure, but enough!"

And on to minister C: "There are at least 20 [of us]."

What would happen to them if they voted against, I enquired.

Minister C: "Frankly she can't lose more than one [of us]. There's no one left [on the backbenches] to replace even the modest PPS's [most junior ministers] who haven't rebelled recent."

Or to put it another way, she could not make voting against her on no-deal a sacking offence, because there's no way she could replace all the offending ministers.

The sun sets over the Palace of Westminster. Credit: PA

And then on to Minister D: "I think it all depends quite a bit on what the final version of [Boles's] bill ends up saying, but if he gets it right...there will be pressure for a free vote".

To put it another way, May's official position may be to oppose no-deal, but if she doesn't allow her ministers to vote with their consciences for one in ten days, she could see the collapse of her government (yes again!).

Her position however is that once no-deal is dead, so too would be her leverage in future talks with dithering Labour MPs, who might prefer some version of her Brexit plan to what they see as the chaos of no deal, and her leverage in any future talks with the EU.

May has refused to rule out no-deal. Credit: PA

All this is another illustration of why I said on News at Ten last night that I am pessimistic the PM can get any Brexit deal through this parliament.

That is why plenty of MPs and officials are talking about the rising probability of a fairly imminent general election, because if parliament is the impasse, perhaps parliament has to be changed (I discussed this in bulletins a couple of days ago).

But there is a flaw even in the election route through the Brexit blockage - because neither Labour nor the Tories has a settled position on what kind of Brexit or no-Brexit they want, and there would be no point in having a general election unless and until each party was able to spell out in their respective manifestos how and even whether we leave the EU.

To state the obvious, simply arriving at a manifesto position on this could split each of them (I talked yesterday about Labour's divide on a referendum, and the Tories on the degree to which the UK after Brexit should follow EU rules).

It might come down to an election. But an election would still force May and Corbyn to do what each has eschewed as if it were Kryptonite, namely make a definitive Brexit choice.