IS it make-or-break week for Brexit? Will this week’s parliamentary votes at Westminster result in the political equivalent of the shoot-out at the OK Corral, perhaps triggering an early General Election? Will Theresa May meet her Waterloo and Boris snatch the keys to Number 10?

Much as I would like to predict otherwise, I fancy Mrs May and her Government will muddle through as ever, and by the weekend we will be no further forward. For there is actually much method – indeed guile – in the Prime Minister’s approach to the Brexit negotiations.

Consider the clever way she deals with her Foreign Secretary. Boris is trying hard to get himself sacked, the better to launch his leadership bid. But the more outrageous Boris is, the more Mrs May ignores him – making him look ever more ridiculous. For the truth is that May is not some accidental stopgap Prime Minister clinging ineffectually to office. Instead, she has – like Truman after Roosevelt and Attlee after Churchill – turned out to be rather good at the rough and tumble of politics. Bear this in mind as Westminster grapples this week with the Brexit wrecking amendments sent back from the Lords. Success in politics is about survival, not grand gestures.

Certainly May got to Number 10 by accident. But remember that she has been through a long political apprenticeship in the misogynistic and dog-eat-dog worlds of Westminster and the Conservative Party. She did six years at the Bank of England then was a local councillor in a London borough for eight, serving as a chair of education. She fought a series of no-hope seats before getting into Parliament in 1997 but manoeuvred herself into the position of party chair in 2002 (which bought her lasting links with the Conservative grassroots).

She shadowed a string of portfolios (transport, family, media, culture, sport, pensions) before getting the Home Office when the Tories came back to power in 2010. As home secretary, May was only the fourth women to hold one of the four so-called “great” offices of state. And she used her tenure there to impose a draconian, populist immigration policy. Don’t underestimate Theresa.

Her coronation as PM in 2016 was the result of the other possible candidates self-destructing. But once she got through the door of Number 10, she has shown every sign of wanting to stay there. True, the gamble to hold a snap General Election last year blew away her majority and left her vulnerable and needing DUP support. But unlike dithering Gordon, May had the decisiveness to go to the country. Note also that May, a convinced Remainer, was cunning enough to put the three key Brexiteers who could cause mischief – Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox – in Cabinet posts where they were exposed to public view and politically neutered. Boris is reduced to leaking tapes of his postprandial ramblings in order to grab a headline. Foxy is always on a foreign trade mission to Ulan Bator.

And Davis has threatened to resign so often that his credibility doesn’t run much further than the Strangers’ Bar. Meanwhile, Machiavellian Mrs May and her ruthless (if dull) sidekick, Chancellor Hammond, have taken over the real Brexit negotiations.

We all moan that the Tory Government does not have a Brexit strategy apart from keeping itself in office and stopping the Conservative Party from splitting. But that’s not actually true. Certainly, the months have ticked by with seemingly little progress in the Brexit negotiations. But occasionally the political smog clears just enough to glimpse what Theresa May is up to with this masterly inaction. In short: she and Philip Hammond are manoeuvring the UK by stealth into as close a Remain position as possible. Effectively, by refusing to specify a clear policy on customs, the PM is engineering a soft Brexit – through inertia.

This soft Brexit takes the form of a semi-permanent transition period, during which the UK goes on negotiating a final trade pact with the EU. De facto, the UK thereby remains in the customs union but (crucial for May) escapes rules governing free movement of people.

The European Commission and Court of Justice will still set the rules but vital frictionless trade flows continue. Meanwhile, the actual details of any final trade deal are hammered out in endless civil servant negotiations that everyone will forget. It’s a fudge, but it’s a soft Brexit fudge. And Labour are slipping in the UK polls to boot.

Game, set and match to Theresa?

What could go wrong? Lots, of course. The Brexit wing of the Tory Party are well aware of what May and Hammond are up to. They are frustrated but split on how to respond.

One group (the so-called “hedgers”) want to stagger through till March 31 next year when the UK legally exits the EU. At that point they think they can depose May because Remainer resistance will evaporate at that point.

Another group (the “last ditchers”) are less sure they can get rid of the PM, especially if she delivers Tory Remainers a de facto soft Brexit. They want to harden up what the UK will accept as a deal with the EU. They will accept a high-tech solution to managing Irish border controls (the so-called “max-fac”) but are determined to get out of any bespoke customs union in favour of the neoliberal nirvana of global free trade. Wait till they meet Donald Trump.

My guess is that in this week’s Commons games, the various factions of Tory and Labour Brexiteers and Remainers will cancel each other out. This will leave May in control and doing as little as possible, in as masterly a fashion, until Westminster summer recess.

Next month, she will publish yet another deliberately vague policy document, then it’s on to a final stitch-up with Europe before the end of the year.

Where does this leave Scotland? This week, SNP MPs will fight in the lobbies to defend Scotland’s membership of the single market and customs union. But thereafter – if we end up with a fudge rather than a hard Brexit – Scotland will have to insert itself into the long round of EU negotiations stretching out through the early 2020s and beyond.

In other words, we might be entering a phase of prolonged uncertainty regarding relations with Europe, not a short, sharp bang. That in turn will impact on a date for the next Scottish independence referendum.

I would caution against being sucked into such a war of negotiating attrition.

A scenario in which May wins a soft Brexit and then a General Election is not inconceivable. She will then set her face against any second Scottish referendum.

But as Trump’s behaviour at the G7 summit shows, the world has entered a period of economic and political crisis in which all the old certainties have disappeared.

Scotland desperately needs independence to protect us from the storm. We literally can’t afford to be still in the UK a decade from now. We need to set political agendas here and not be subordinate to those in Westminster.

Whatever happens this week, it is definitely not business as usual for Scotland.