GIVE or take a side deal on Gibraltar, today’s EU summit should approve the final agreement with the UK on the Brexit deal. That will kick off an intense and unpredictable two weeks of political manoeuvring before the Commons votes on it.

EU capitals, watching with concern, are well aware that currently there is no majority for any outcome at Westminster: not for the deal, an election, a no-deal Brexit, a “People’s Vote” or a soft Brexit. And, for now, the EU are not open to renegotiation.

Political crisis looms – with likely sharp economic knock-on effects. But where ultimately will the UK end up; and what role should the Scottish Government and SNP MPs at Westminster play in this crucial endgame?

READ MORE: Why we shouldn't be fooled into thinking we can escape the wave of Brexit chaos

With Tory Brexiteer MPs lining up to announce their opposition to May’s deal, it looks like the Commons will vote the deal down. But two weeks is a long time in politics.

That apparent majority against the deal could shrink – depending not only on Tory Brexiteers, but on Tory Remainers, the DUP and Corbyn’s Labour party too. For the SNP, it appears unthinkable that they could back the deal as it stands; but this endgame could yet go in unlikely directions.

An initial hint from May’s camp was that, if the deal is rejected, there could be a second vote in January (possibly after a helpful tweak or two at the EU’s December 13-14 summit).

But these briefings are now being muted: it could encourage Tory rebels to vote the deal down first time around.

READ MORE: Keith Brown: Seeking a better Brexit will help us win friends and influence

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was in Westminster on Tuesday liaising with other opposition parties on what should happen next if the deal is voted down.

Labour’s position remains fudged: they would like an election but if they can’t win on that then “all options are on the table”, including a People’s Vote, possibly with a remain option. It’s quite vague – and the SNP’s stance is certainly clearer.

Nicola Sturgeon insists she would prefer the UK to stay in the EU, and the SNP now back a people’s vote to that end.

The National:

Yet she, and other SNP politicians, also continue to emphasise the possible compromise of a soft Brexit where the UK would stay in the EU’s customs union and single market.

For now, there’s no majority for May’s deal. There’s unlikely to be a majority for a vote of no confidence – Tory Remainers, the DUP and Brexiteers alike will not vote for an election. Nor is there, yet, a majority for a People’s Vote given Labour’s fudged position – and their votes would be vital. It’s unclear, too, how many Tory Remainers would vote for another EU referendum, but some at least.

Some claim there is a Commons majority for a soft Brexit but this isn’t obviously so. In July, a vote to commit the UK to a permanent customs union was lost by three votes.

And the debate over the Withdrawal Agreement and the political declaration has also helped to fully expose the major democratic deficit challenges such a soft Brexit would create.

Soft Brexit may be least worst economically, but it’s not soft democratically. And politicians and public alike are now alert to the potential folly of the UK being a rule-taker.

Indeed, France and Germany have expressed concerns at whether the UK could really live with the customs union backstop to keep the Irish border open and frictionless – with no unilateral exit possible.

For them, such a throwing away of power, influence and a vote at the EU’s top table on matters of trade policy is not conceivable.

THE continuing row over access to fishing waters has also cast a cold light on the idea an independent Scotland would be better off in the European Economic Area with full control of its waters.

The expected side-declaration by the EU today, that without access to UK waters there will be no extension of transition, shows the hard ball the EU would play on this one. Why would the EU’s 27 member states – who are also in the EEA – vote to let Scotland join without a good deal on fish?

So where does our chaotic Brexit politics go next? Nicola Sturgeon has suggested that, given Labour’s lack of clarity, it’s important to keep soft Brexit in play. But would Labour vote for a soft Brexit?

Corbyn does want to be permanently in a customs union with the EU (arguing, unconvincingly, he can get the UK a strong voice on EU trade policy outside the EU). And he wants to be close to but not in the single market – aiming to ignore some EU rules on state aids and public procurement.

The National:

But May’s commitments in the Brexit deal on state aids and competition, at the EU’s insistence, should make Corbyn reflect.

There is a risk in keeping the soft Brexit ball in play. If a Commons majority was somehow put together for it, that would mean Labour, SNP, LibDems, Green, and some Tory Remainers voting for it.

The opponents of Brexit, plus Corbyn’s Labour, would have been the handmaidens of Brexit. The Brexiteers would bang on, correctly for once, about the democratic deficit – a deficit which might make such a deal unsustainable (wait for a few unpopular EU laws the UK had no say in).

The potential irony of the SNP defending a soft Brexit outcome while Dominic Raab argues staying in the EU is better should give everyone pause for thought.

And if the Commons did vote for a soft Brexit, the EU might insist the UK – the clock ticking – accepted the Withdrawal Agreement as is, while the political declaration was rapidly tweaked.

Would the SNP really vote for May’s Withdrawal Agreement? It would be a very strange political moment.

WITH time running out, the main choice at the Brexit cross-roads is whether the UK stays in the EU or leaves the EU – with a deal (soft, hard, blindfold) or no deal. There have been Remain majorities in the polls for the whole UK including England for several months now, despite Labour’s lack of opposition to Brexit. Scotland voted Remain and Scottish voters (SNP, Labour, LibDem and Green) are strongly pro-EU and in favour of a people’s vote.

This is a moment for the SNP to focus on the main political goal not on attempting to avert a no-deal disaster (the prospect of which is entirely the fault of the Tory Government).

Theresa May is appealing to the public to back her deal. At this crucial point, politicians who want to halt Brexit cannot afford to send out mixed messages.

They too need to appeal to the public to call for another vote on this shambolic and damaging Brexit deal – the only route to halt Brexit (short of a unilateral revocation of Article 50; the European Court of Justice case on whether that is possible will be held this Tuesday).

In the past two years, the Scottish Government has emphasised a range of different Brexit policies: a differentiated deal for Scotland, a soft Brexit, independence, a people’s vote and halting Brexit. But in this two-week countdown to the Commons vote, a consistent and focused strategy to halt Brexit, and not to support any form of Brexit, should surely be the political goal.

Kirsty Hughes is director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations