Theresa Mays effort to agree a Brexit deal began with deadlock and ended with the collapse of discipline in her own party
It is Thursday afternoon and 20-year-old art student Sonya Woodruff has taken time off from her studies to make a point about Brexit outside parliament. She is standing quietly against the black railings as the rain comes down, holding a purple sign which reads: No one voted for this Brexit mess.
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Inside the Commons, MPs are preparing for a third consecutive night of voting on Brexit as they try to break the interminable deadlock. They have already, in the previous two days, taken two big decisions which seem to some of the protesters outside rather contradictory. On Tuesday they voted down Theresa Mays Brexit deal for a second time and the next evening rejected leaving the EU with no deal. Later on Thursday they will decide whether to ask the EU for a delay more than two and a half years on from the referendum and with just over two weeks to go until the UK is due to leave the EU.
The atmosphere among MPs and ministers in the lobbies is grim. The cabinet, which has held a series of bad-tempered emergency meetings in the previous 48 hours, is at war. On the pavement outside, people are confused and tense. Someone got arrested earlier, says Woodruff. When I got here I was too scared to talk to any Leavers. They were so defensive.
It quickly becomes apparent why there is even more friction than normal between the rival groups of protesters. A few yards away, a woman with a tricycle that has a union jack strapped to its handlebars is wearing a shirt which says WTO Rules. She is strikingly calm, given what she says happened to her two days before. A man came up to me and called me a Nazi scumbag, she says. He grabbed me from behind and then dragged me down to the ground. Then he started to beat me with my own flag and tried to break my windpipe. The police, she says, have told her it was caught on CCTV and that they are investigating.