When British Prime Minister Theresa May appears on stage at the Conservative Party’s annual meeting this week, it will require all her determination to drown out the ticking of an invisible clock.
One hundred and eighty days are left till Britain is expected to make its exit from the European Union. Britain has reached a moment of consequence for the process known as Brexit after two years of negotiations.
What this could mean for ordinary Britons has been the focus of newspapers, sometimes in leaks from secret government reports: Northern Ireland has only one energy link to the mainland, so a no-deal Brexit could lead to rolling blackouts and steep price rises; and the energy system could collapse, forcing the military to redeploy generators from Afghanistan to the Irish Sea.
As Britain heads towards the March 29 deadline, the government has appointed a minister to guarantee food supplies. Pharmaceutical companies are planning a six-week stockpile of lifesaving medications like insulin and considering flying plane-loads of medicine into the country until imports resume. That is if planes will still be able to land in Britain, something being questioned after the government admitted that aircraft could, in theory, be grounded by a sudden exit.
In many ways, the country remains without a solid plan.
British leaders remain stuck in infighting, presenting competing visions as the Brexit countdown enters its final stage. On Friday, Boris Johnson, the former foreign minister and standard-bearer for the hard-Brexit faction, proposed starting over with a tougher negotiating approach.
Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition Labour leader, rallied his own troops in Liverpool last week and all but promised that Parliament would vote down any deal that May could strike.
In the meantime, there is a sense of calm, as if the country is waiting to see if a storm will eventually take place.