THE economic alarm bells are ringing loudly, as companies and consumers pay the price for the UK’s Brexit circus.

Given the continuing lack of any certainty over just what will happen next, less than seven weeks before the scheduled departure date, it is hardly surprising to see Scotland’s private-sector economy record a second straight monthly contraction.

The UK economy’s apparent stagnation in January was also to be expected.

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The economic data and surveys continue to tell a very different story to the tales spun by the Brexiters. The economic indicators measure reality, as opposed to tracking the level of excitement among Leave voters about Brexit.

So it is these indicators to which we should pay attention. And they have been pretty consistent, flagging the economic damage already done by the UK’s Brexit drive and signalling a weak picture ahead.

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In this regard, they chime with the Bank of England’s downgrading of its UK growth forecasts last week.

The indicators should leave us in no doubt the UK economy is struggling badly, even before we get to the impact of the actual exit from the European Union. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney last week flagged the negative effects of the “fog of Brexit” on business investment and consumer confidence.

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The UK’s predicament is most unfortunate, particularly at a time when economists are also flagging a softening of the global picture.

Many firms and consumers will, understandably, find it difficult to be anything other than worried about the UK’s increasingly grim outlook.