THE revelation this week that the economy has overtaken immigration and terrorism as the biggest concern for people in the UK looks like a crystal clear signal that the reality of Brexit is increasingly hitting home.

Many were all too aware of the economic consequences before the referendum and hence voted to stay in the European Union.

In Scotland, a significant majority opted to Remain, and must surely be increasingly aggravated by the utter refusal of Westminster to even examine the possibility of a Brexit deal that would enable the nation to remain in the EU single market as the rest of the UK leaves. This heel-digging approach has been demonstrated repeatedly by Prime Minister Theresa May, and was reinforced this week by Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell.

Maybe we should not be surprised at this stance, given that a Brexit arrangement that enabled Scotland to stay in the EU would give the country a huge advantage over the rest of the UK in terms of exports and inward investment.

Such a deal might be complex to achieve, but the whole Brexit process promises to be a real can of worms, and it is unacceptable for the Conservatives to dismiss such a possibility for Scotland out of hand. The refusal also looks to be entirely at odds with the Conservatives’ stated determination to preserve the Union.

Meanwhile, the survey from highly regarded researcher Nielsen that shows the economy is now the top concern for people throughout the UK indicates that many more of the electorate are becoming aware of the severe economic disadvantages of Brexit.

It appears the ever more shrill and jingoistic noises from the UK Government on Brexit may just not be cutting the mustard for a growing proportion of people in the UK who, according to Nielsen’s survey, are also increasingly concerned about rising food and petrol prices.

These rising food and petrol prices are a direct result of the pound’s tumble in the wake of the Brexit vote last June, which in turn reflects the UK’s diminished economic prospects.

The Nielsen survey shows the economy was cited as one of the top two concerns of 28 per cent of the UK population at the end of 2016. This was up by 12 percentage points from the corresponding reading at the end of 2015.

Terrorism was cited by 20 per cent of people as one of their top two concerns at the end of last year, down from a corresponding 32 per cent at the close of 2015.

Meanwhile, 20 per cent of people cited immigration as one of their top two concerns at the close of 2016, down from 22 per cent a year earlier.

Immigration appears to have been a big factor that drove the Brexit vote south of the Border, with a mood of xenophobia seemingly prevailing in some quarters.

Political stability was cited by 10 per cent of people as one of their top two concerns in the latest Nielsen survey. This was five times the corresponding two per cent reading at the close of 2015, ahead of the Brexit vote.

Steve Smith, managing director of Nielsen in the UK and Ireland, said: “As the political and economic planning for Brexit gets under way, concerns about jobs leaving the UK have unsettled consumers, as did the US election.”

He added: “We’ve seen the first signs of rising inflation in the UK: rising petrol prices being a primary example, seeing the third-biggest jump in consumer concern. We now expect to see the start of price increases for consumer staples early this year.”

It looks highly likely consumers will, therefore, become increasingly aware of the negative consequences of the Brexit vote as this year goes on.

And it will surely not take long for the hard Brexit dream being pursued by the UK Government, seemingly on behalf of some of the electorate who are bafflingly unaware of the economic benefits of immigration, to be exposed for what it is: an economic nightmare of the UK’s own making.

The latest official UK gross domestic product figures this week underline the fact that businesses have been well aware for a while of the consequences of Brexit.

What is particularly concerning in the GDP data, although at the same time entirely understandable, is a one per cent quarter-on-quarter drop in business investment in the final three months of last year. This meant business investment in the final quarter of 2016 was down 0.9 per cent on a year earlier.

Mrs May and her Ministers can hardly expect domestic or overseas businesses to be ramping up investment in the UK when they do not know, and in many cases fear, what is coming next with Westminster’s sad and foolish hard line on Brexit.

Annual UK consumer prices index inflation had by January surged to 1.8 per cent, from 0.3 per cent last May ahead of the Brexit vote.

Economists expect it to surge towards, and perhaps above, three per cent this year. This would take it well above the Bank of England’s two per cent target. This inevitably raises questions over how much inflation the Bank will tolerate, or “look through”, before it feels compelled to raise UK base rates from their record low of 0.25 per cent.

Kristin Forbes, a member of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, appeared to signal earlier this month that she might soon prefer a rate rise.

But Bank chief economist Andy Haldane, who is also on the nine-strong MPC, hammered home his view that even an expectation in financial markets that base rates could soon rise could harm the UK economy. This is because such heightened expectations could tighten credit conditions and reduce consumer and business spending.

Mr Haldane emphasised the “current fragile environment”.

The Nielsen survey shows more and more people in the UK are becoming aware of this fragility.

The GDP figures signal businesses have long been well aware of the situation.

The people who are not aware are those Conservative Ministers who are driving the UK towards hard Brexit, still, seemingly, with nothing more up their sleeves than dreams of Empire.