They say the hardest tumble a man can take is to fall over his own bluff.
We must hope for the future of these islands and relationships with the EU that British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is at least as familiar with the downside of pushing too hard in pursuit of his promised vision of “sunny uplands” for post-Brexit Britain, as he is with its opaque benefits.
The reticence to engage with the enormity of what is at stake gets ever more concerning as rhetoric turns white hot once again.
Mr Johnson appears to be adopting a Mark Twain-like strategy, in playing his hand.
No stranger to riverboat gaming rooms, Twain wrote: “It is sound judgment to put on a bold face and play your hand for a 100 times what it is worth; forty-nine times out of 50 nobody dares to call it, and you roll in the chips.”
But it seems patience in Brussels and Dublin has been as elastic as security and economic prerogatives will allow. Something is about to snap. The consequences of a threat and counter-threat approach can only be grave.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has sagely appealed for a “big picture” approach.
Noting that nothing is certain regarding the triggering of Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol by the British government, he warned of the dangers of self-fulfilling prophecies.
Speaking in a context of deepening tensions amid talk of a potential ruinous trade war, Mr Martin appealed for nothing to be done to endanger relationships.
Triggering Article 16 would be both reckless and irresponsible, he warned.
An unravelling of the Brexit deal and the domino effect this would have on the North would be devastating.
As SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, said such action by the UK would wreck the trust required to sustain an international agreement. It would also be disastrous for the Good Friday Agreement, jeopardising the decades of transformational progress.
The latest unlikely point of contention is the arbitration mechanism. Mr Johnson’s introduction of the oversight role of the European Court of Justice looks more like a red herring than a red-line.
Nonetheless to do so at the eleventh hour, could yet undermine the entire process.
This would be as incomprehensible as it would be unconscionable. A couple of years ago the North’s then most senior civil servant, David Sterling, circulated a letter warning of the grave impact a UK crash-out would have on the North.
“The consequences of material business failure as a result of a ‘no-deal’ exit, combined with changes to everyday life and potential border frictions could well have a profound and long-lasting impact on society,” he wrote.
Going too far when one is already on a cliff can never end well.
If Mr Johnson fails to see enough on the table to buy into today, perhaps he might remember the terrible darkness of yesterday we all believed we had left behind.