So, a five-hour cabinet meeting in London today – the first three hours without civil servants present, prompting speculation once again about a general election.

But lets back up a bit.  Having spent two years negotiating an agreement with the EU to leave said organisation in an orderly fashion, the UK parliament has still not ratified 'The Deal'.  After three votes.

Without the ratification of The Deal (of Withdrawal Agreement), the UK is due to leave the EU in a "no-deal" situation – the car crash that most people want to avoid.  In fact it should have left last Friday, but was given some "time added on". 

That time runs out at the end of next week - Friday 12 April.  Two days prior to that - a week tomorrow - the European Council reconvenes in Brussels to hear from Prime Minister May about how she intends to proceed.

The choice will be between a no-deal, crash out Brexit - or a longer extension of the time period needed to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement. 

The EU’s key priority is not to force (or be seen to force) the UK out of the EU. That’s why Michel Barnier said this morning the choice will be Mrs May’s alone. It puts the pressure back on London to make a decision.

Mrs May in turn is putting pressure back on her cabinet and parliament.  Either they ratify The Deal, or they look for an extension. They must decide - really fast.  Ideally diplomats preparing the summit on Wednesday week would like to know on Monday what they need to draft up.

A fourth vote on the deal is being speculated about – possibly as early as tomorrow. The thinking is hard Brexiters in the Conservatives - and pro-Brexit Labour MPs - may feel that if they don’t get a Brexit now, they may not get any Brexit at all.  Boris Johnson appears to be in this camp now.  His latest newspaper column talked of trying to fix the things he doesn’t like in the future relationship phase of the talks - the talks that can only begin once the UK has actually left the EU, with a Withdrawal Agreement (the one that’s been awaiting ratification since November).

The indicative votes, run off last week and last night - the ones that couldn’t get a majority behind anything - have indicated a clear preference among MPs to avoid a no-deal Brexit. 

But if they can’t vote for this agreement, and they can’t rally behind an alternative plan, then this House of Commons can’t deliver either The Deal or a no-deal Brexit.

So how does Theresa May go back to Brussels next week and ask for extra time without a plan for something to get done during that time?  A general election may well qualify as a "something" - a change in the situation that would justify EU leaders avoiding something they really, really want to avoid - a no-deal, crash out Brexit. Maybe a new parliament would ratify the withdrawal – or maybe not.  But as pretty much every other option has been tried, and we are now into "time added on", why not?

But even calling an election is difficult - the Fixed Term Parliament Act means it needs a resolution backed by two-thirds of the House of Commons: in the current situation it can’t be taken for granted.

But something has to happen. Soon.