THERESA MAY is playing a desperately high stakes game with the country’s future. Yesterday, she put mid-January in the diary for MPs to have their “meaningful vote” on her deal, by which time there will be little time left to find an alternative.

Between now and then is going to be a wasted month in which there is going to be little substantial change in either the deal on offer or the entrenched positions of the protagonists.

Wasting time is what the Prime Minister wants because then it will not be possible to renegotiate or find a new leader or hold an election or run a second vote – the only options Mrs May hopes MPs will have will be her deal or a disastrous no-deal.

There are growing voices for a second referendum to clarify the people’s will, and asking the people their opinion in the light of changing circumstances cannot be seen as being anti-democratic.

A second referendum is the only way of pulling the nation back from the brink of Brexit, and it could be the only way out of the deadlock – Mrs May might even see it that way one day.

But it is a high risk strategy. It would be highly divisive and probably rancorous and bitter. The remainers would have to match the emotional pull of the leavers, who would employ powerful slogans about the elite just not getting it.

And there is no guarantee it would be conclusive: a 52-48 vote for remain would deepen our deadlock, and a close vote for leave would leave us back where we are today, in a quandary about the details of our exit.

We need to be convinced – although at least we've got a month to consider it while the nation stews in its Brexit juices over Christmas.