AS Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dominic Raab tries to paint a picture that all is fine on the Brexit front, seemingly enjoying the limelight, all the signs from the business community are that things are very far from okay.

From the biggest businesses to the smallest, there is a sense of worry, in some cases despondency, and a concerted move to batten down the hatches.

German car-maker BMW announced on Tuesday that it would shut down its MINI manufacturing plant at Oxford for maintenance on April 1 next year, the Monday immediately following the Brexit date of Friday March 29, for several weeks. Such shutdowns by car manufacturers tend to occur in summer, to coincide with the peak holiday period. However, fears of a no-deal Brexit, and specifically worries over the availability of parts, have prompted BMW to bring forward next year’s shutdown.

BMW, declaring it believed “this worst-case scenario” of no deal was unlikely but it had to plan for it, said on Tuesday: “We have scheduled next year’s annual maintenance period at MINI Plant Oxford to start on 1 April, when the UK exits the EU, to minimise the risk of any possible short-term parts-supply disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.”

Ralf Speth, chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover, warned last week that “tens of thousands” of jobs could be lost in the UK car industry if the Westminster Government fails to strike the “right Brexit deal”.

This week, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, warned the UK economy would shrink if Prime Minister Theresa May’s Government and Brussels fail to reach a Brexit agreement.

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The UK economy has, since the June 2016 Brexit vote, faced a lamentable slowdown in growth from already-weak rates. With households having borne the pain of this sharp slowdown, the last thing they need is an absolute fall in UK economic output, which would make matters even worse. Sadly, many Brexit-supporting households still do not realise the cause of the tighter squeeze on their finances, or recognise there is much worse to come when Brexit actually happens, as the right-wing Tories spin a fantastical yarn that is being given credence by far too many people.

Deutsche Bank is among those progressing its plans for the post-Brexit world, declaring this week that it would move assets from London to Frankfurt, in line with demands from UK and EU regulators.

The German financial giant said it would make Frankfurt rather than London the primary booking hub for its investment banking clients.

It added: “By definition, this involves moving assets from London to Frankfurt, a process which is already under way with the full understanding of UK and EU regulators.”

But it is not just big players which are having to deal with the whole sorry Brexit fiasco, whether exit occurs under a no-deal or alternative but still-damaging scenario.

The Federation of Small Businesses revealed this week that confidence among its members in Scotland has tumbled in the third quarter, with businesses north of the Border among the most concerned in the UK about a no-deal Brexit.

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The FSB’s small business confidence index for Scotland plunged from +5.1 points to -13.2 points. UK-wide, the index, which measures small-business owners’ assessment of conditions facing their enterprises, dropped from +12.9 points to -1.7 points.

The FSB’s latest research also shows 56 per cent of small businesses in Scotland believe a no-transition, no-deal Brexit would impact negatively on them. Only 5% believe it would have a positive impact on their business. Perhaps the main surprise in these findings is that 5% think it would be positive. How so exactly? Meanwhile, 27% believe a no-transition, no-deal Brexit would have no impact, while 12% declared they did not know the effect.

Given many small players do not export, and are probably in general less likely to be dependent on international supply chains than their larger counterparts, the fact that 56% of such enterprises believe Brexit will have a negative impact on their businesses should make the UK Government sit up and take note. Sadly, it probably will not.

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These small businesses have had enough challenges over the decade since the financial crash without Brexit, which will exacerbate skills shortages dramatically and make such firms’ customers even worse off. While small businesses may be less internationally exposed than larger companies, in terms of exports and supply chains, many will sell overseas and buy materials from abroad.

Across the UK, 48% of firms believe a no-deal Brexit would impact their operations negatively. Notably, 58% of small businesses in London see a negative impact. It is interesting to note dismay is greatest in Scotland and London, both of which voted against Brexit. This seems likely to reflect greater awareness in Scotland and London, than in other parts of Britain, of the importance of people from other EU countries to the UK economy, and society.

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Amid the shambles, Sir Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, is coming across as a voice of reason. His message remains that Brexit is not inevitable and must be stopped. He put things very bluntly (and somewhat graphically) this week, offering his opinion that Brexit’s “true believers” considered the costs of Brexit irrelevant, with, for them, “years of economic pain justified by the erotic spasm of leaving the European Union”. He slightly fluffed the “erotic spasm” line when he delivered his speech at his party’s conference in Brighton, but the message was clear.

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The problem for Sir Vince and the Liberal Democrats is that their party had a big hand in this sorry mess. It was, after all, the Liberal Democrats who propped up an austerity-driven, Conservative-led coalition in 2010. Without this prop, David Cameron may never have been prime minister, or at least may not have been for long. And, in such a scenario, we would almost certainly not have had a referendum on EU membership.

That said, we are sadly where we are, in the midst of the Brexit chaos. Mrs May is touting her Chequers free-trade plan as the only workable proposal. But EU leaders at the Salzburg summit seem to disagree about its workability. All the while, calling a halt to Brexit is actually the sensible path. As Sir Vince says.