After a day of extraordinary, and chaotic, political drama, what might happen next? Chris Lloyd offers six scenarios

1. Successful renegotiation

This is Theresa May’s dream. She gets enough movement on the permanence of the Irish backstop from Brussels to persuade enough of her backbenchers that, with time running out and the pound falling, they have to support her deal to keep Brexit on track.

However, Mrs May called off today’s vote because she knew she would be so heavily defeated that her job was jeopardised. She must have feared losing by 100 votes or more, so just tinkering with the margins of the withdrawal agreement is unlikely to win over sufficient waverers.

Will the EU be able to give her anything meaningful enough to win back such a large number?

2. Leadership contest

Yesterday’s embarrassing u-turns may make more Tory MPs doubt that Mrs May is the right leader, not just in terms of her deal but in terms of the way she is able to reach out and win people to her cause.

To trigger a leadership election, 48 Conservative MPs (15 per cent) must hand in letters of complaint. The really important number is 158 – half of the 315 MPs – needed to vote Mrs May out. If they don’t get 158, she will be unchallengeable for a year.

It is clear that many contenders are lining up campaigns to replace her. On the right, Boris Johnson gave another nakedly ambitious TV interview at the weekend, although perhaps Dominic Raab is a more acceptable face of the Brexiteers.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd is a name regularly mentioned, but Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt would hope to ride the moderate ticket. In fact, there’s a squadron of hopefuls waiting for Mrs May to fall.

3. Vote of no confidence

Jeremy Corbyn was yesterday called upon to move a motion of no confidence in Mrs May, but Labour’s tactics at the moment seem to be to allow the Prime Minister to dangle on a wire until she’s utterly bereft of life.

If she lost a confidence vote, she would have 14 days to assemble a new coalition, or for another leader to emerge who could command the majority of the House, before a general election would be called.

Could a new leader emerge, perhaps her deputy David Lidington, who visited the Tees Valley on Friday, to act as an interim to get the deal over the line? Or could a cross-party government of national unity emerge to lead us through the crisis?

4. A general election

Unless there’s a lost confidence motion, two-thirds of MPs have to vote for an election for it to be called, and it is hard to see many Tories and Ulster Unionists being prepared to let Mr Corbyn into Downing Street.

Would an election resolve anything? The polls yesterday showed 38 per cent support for the Tories and 37 per cent for Labour – it would be another hung parliament.

Labour officially wants an election, but in the Brexit-backing North-East, are the remain-inclined Labour MPs, who are leading the calls for a second referendum, guaranteed to win their traditional Labour seats?

5. Second referendum

Perhaps the only option more likely after yesterday, with MPs on all sides calling for it. They were bolstered by the European Court of Justice’s ruling that the UK could terminate the Brexit process and stay in the EU under its existing terms of membership.

It is an attractive option for remainers, although there are also leavers who see it as a way of bringing resolution – even Mrs May, now the queen of u-turns, may one day see it as the only way of moving forward.

But it cannot guarantee resolution. It is likely that remain would win but not by an overwhelmingly decisive majority, and that would leave leavers with legitimate resentment.

With leave’s charismatic backers, perhaps it would win a second referendum – but that would bring us back to this exact point, arguing over the nature of the deal by which we do leave.

6. An alternative deal

Without a withdrawal deal, the UK will crash out on March 29 in no-deal, which the extreme Brexiteers were calling for yesterday. There really is no such thing as no-deal, as everything has to be negotiated, even World Trade Organisation terms. Only the most stubborn Brexiteer believes that a such an exit will not have a major economic impact, particularly on a manufacturing region like the North-East.

At the other end of the scale, there is talk of replacing Mrs May’s failed deal with “Norway-plus”, a deal by which the UK stays in the single market and probably a customs union, therefore getting round the Irish border issue. This would enable the UK to leave on March 29, but it would be Brino – Brexit in name only.