Hardcore Brexiters need to learn a little patience. In their rush to get to the end, whatever that is precisely, they risk tripping over and falling flat on their face. Polls suggest that Leave could possibly win, although most people still think it quite unlikely. Yet any discussion of what a post-Leave process might look like is attacked as if carion by starving hyenas. Witness the Leave campaign's distancing from Patrick Minford's unilateral free trade option, for example.
Those who matter have started to suggest that after a Leave vote a majority of MPs could resist the UK's departure from the single market. Pure-blood exiteers jump on that as a sign of betrayal of the people's [assumed] choice, but it is anything but. For the referendum poses an interesting constitutional question in the event of a Leave vote: what comes next? The ballot paper is carefully designed to give no further information beyond In or Out of the EU.
A decision to Leave the EU generally presumes that Parliament will "take back control", to repeat a mantra. But a sovereign Parliament is free to delegate its powers, as it does already. Surely Parliament will respect the referendum result, but the referendum does not give any further instruction to our legislators and executive. A vote to quit the EU does not imply that a majority of voters want to leave the single market, however much a win for Leave may or may not be based on anti-immigration rhetoric. (It is not even clear that the some of the leading faces of the Leave campaign are interested in a hard stop on immigration: as Will Hague points out, a points-based system need not result in any particular number of newcomers. Jeremy Warner also makes some good points about visas, if you have the inclination to read his recent Telegeaph article.) If Parliament genuinely cared about immigration, it could halve the level immediately by blocking all non-EU arrivals... Personally I suspect that immigration is an extremely important issue to a relatively tiny number of voters; the smooth functioning of the day-to-day economy trumps all.
Parliament will also be aware of the possible short-term economic consequences of a hard exit. Indeed, Remain have campaigned mercilessly on this topic. No party will want to go into the next election with a backdrop of a crashed economy brought about by a bodged withdrawal which they oversaw. And no party will get off scott-free in this "balanced" Parliament.
Which is why many sensible people have long supported EFTA/EEA membership - sometimes referred to as a Norwegian model - as the first step out of the EU. EEA membership largely gives cheap access to the single market, without the CAP and fisheries nonsenses, but crucially allows members to sit outside the customs union: free to negotiate trade deals with non-EEA countries. It doesn't solve all of the sovereignty issues because the single market rules must be enacted by member countries, but it does limit the areas in which the common rules apply. It does require free movement to continue within the EEA, but I suspect it would not require the UK to be part of the relocation of refugees schemes (I am happy to be corrected on this by anyone who knows more about it).
The point is that a step from EU to EEA could be very smooth and need not cause a hard stop in our trading relations with the other 27 or the rest of the world. Effectively it buys time and allows for a gradual disengagement - if that is what people vote for in subsequent general elections - or a semi-permanent semi-detached relationship with our European friends. We do like a semi-detached here in Britain, don't we?
A possible smooth transition to something other than our current EU membership could also attract support from people who, in the PM's words, are "grumpy" about the EU but do not pine for a fortress Britain either. Liberal internationalists, for example, to borrow Michael Gove's expression.
In other words, the EEA option could be just the sort of messy compromise that moderates and centrists have said they want. In but Out, Out but Near, free-trading but semi-detached, call it what you like. And once the Rubicon of actually voting to Leave has been crossed, then Parliament and elections to it can determine where we go next. Nice and slowly, in the British way. No fruitcakery required.