MORE than one month after the European Union referendum, as Brexiters cast around ever more frantically for actual rather than imagined benefits from the Leave decision, a leading Scottish economic think tank has made a succinct observation.

Strathclyde University’s Fraser of Allander Institute declared this week that any economic benefits of Brexit are “at best still undetermined and highly uncertain”. Well put indeed.

Read More: Recession in Scotland 'highly possible' after Brexit vote and unemployment to rise

It warned the costs to Scotland of the UK leaving the EU were likely to be structural and long-lasting, citing the long-term impact on trade and investment and short-run damage from uncertainty and “financial volatility”.

The Brexiters wax lyrical about new UK trade deals, often it seems driven by dreams of bygone days of Empire. But this jingoistic talk appears to have had little, if any, substance behind it.

Politicians have, it seems, been at pains to highlight the friendliness of the counterparts they have met in various countries as they have toured the world in search of new bilateral trade agreements. That is all very nice for them, but it amounts to a hill of beans in economic terms.

We will see how friendly and enthusiastic everyone is after days and nights of protracted and complex trade negotiations, in which each country is understandably looking firmly after its own interests and ensuring it maximises its economic output against a very difficult global backdrop.

What is for sure is negotiating trade deals will be a very long, hard slog, as has been the case through the decades.

Meanwhile, the Conservative Government does not really seem much further forward in preparing for what are likely to be protracted and difficult negotiations with our long-suffering EU partners.

Given the huge differences of opinion among Tories, as demonstrated by John Redwood’s declaration he wants “the full Brexit”, we should perhaps not be surprised it is not clear what it is exactly that the UK Government wants.

Prime Minister Theresa May offered her view this week that the model for the UK’s future ties with the EU may not mirror any of the existing relationships between non-member states such as Norway or Switzerland and the bloc. Mrs May talked about “looking at this with an open mind”.

This is all fine and well but there is hardly scope, given the emerging gravity of the economic situation in which the UK finds itself, to play with the time.

Mrs May’s comments failed to dispel the notion the UK Government has no detailed Brexit plan. She is signalling a desire for the UK to have its cake and eat it when it comes to EU exit – satisfying some of the electorate’s apparent concerns over immigration while achieving the best possible deal in terms of access to the single market.

Our EU partners have made it plain free movement of people goes hand-in-hand with unfettered access to the single market, so we seem to have got no further than a statement of opening positions. The UK opening position should surely by now seem less shambolic, given those campaigning for Brexit should have had a strategy and the Conservative Government, having called the referendum in the first place, should have had a long-established contingency plan.

Meantime, the fall-out from the Brexit vote shows absolutely no sign of abating. Rather, it appears to be intensifying. So is the campaign for Scotland to find some way of staying within the EU, given its electorate’s Remain vote.

Lloyds Banking Group, which has not been averse to cost-cutting in recent years and has shed many thousands of staff, yesterday cited Brexit as it unveiled plans to axe about a further 3,000 jobs and close around 200 branches.

Glasgow-based Clydesdale Bank flagged uncertainty created by Brexit.

And Ivan Menezes, chief executive of drinks giant Diageo, has urged the Scottish and UK governments to safeguard the future prospects of Scotch whisky following the Brexit vote, noting global trade is crucial.

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson is urging the Westminster Government to clarify the UK’s trade relationship with the EU.

He warned: “It is vitally important that UK business has some idea of how it will be able to trade with its closest trading partners and not slip back to the time before the 1970s when the UK was restricted by high tariffs and taxes.”

Surveys show consumer confidence has plummeted in the wake of the Brexit vote. A survey from pollster GfK shows a precipitous plunge in consumer confidence in Scotland, and a sharp drop across the UK as a whole.

Graeme Roy, director of Fraser of Allander, has warned recession in Scotland is now “highly possible”, given the think tank now predicts growth will be “so close to zero” in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Fraser of Allander now forecasts a rise in unemployment in Scotland, having just ahead of the referendum predicted a fall.

Economists have put the median probability of UK recession in the coming year at 60 per cent.

Maybe the question on June 23 should have been phrased thus: “Do you want to ramp up the chances of recession?” People could then have put their cross in Yes or No boxes, and the result might have been different.

Although Fraser of Allander believes any recession in Scotland is likely be brief, it has warned the picture could turn out even worse than predicted if the EU exit negotiations fail to make early progress. Other experts have issued similar warnings, in relation to Scotland or the UK as a whole.

Given the unshakeable impression those in charge of Brexit still have little by way of a credible plan, it would be a brave man or woman who would bet the big downside risks to the already grim economic forecasts will not crystallise.