AS the astounding Brexit circus rumbles on, sadly showing no sign of leaving town any time soon and enabling us to get back to the better days before the nasty, xenophobic, anti-European Union genie was unleashed by the 2016 referendum, sterling is on the ropes.

The fortunes of the pound, which has tumbled to its lowest levels since January this week, in large measure reflect the state of, and outlook for, the UK economy, amid the unrelenting political mayhem.

The UK economy is, of course, in a poor state, with the Brexit debacle having added dramatically to already significant woes arising from ill-judged, misdirected, and pitiless Conservative austerity.

Recent years have been characterised by weak growth and falls in business investment, as well as fragile consumer confidence.

Read More: Ian McConnell: Paris metro poster for slapstick British farce evokes Brexit metaphor

What is more, amid the protracted uncertainty created by the Brexit vote and the continuing savage austerity programme, the short and medium-term prospects for the UK economy do not look good.

What occurs with Brexit, as well as future domestic economic policy, will have a major impact on the long-term picture. Either an extreme disorderly departure, or the type of hard Brexit deal peddled so relentlessly by Prime Minister Theresa May, which would also entail loss of single-market membership, would have grave consequences.

We only have to look at the UK’s great need for continuing strong net immigration from EU countries to see that. And make no mistake, a no-deal or otherwise hard Brexit would have a dire impact on UK trade, regardless of what Tory arch-Leavers Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Liam Fox et al might tell you.

Read More: Ian McConnell: Man in Lego boat without paddle sums up Brexit fiasco frustration

It was interesting that, when Mrs May gave her latest set-piece speech on Tuesday, it was her raising of the possibility of a second Brexit referendum that was cited in foreign exchange markets as the reason for a very brief rally in the pound. The hope, however slim, that the UK might yet avoid Brexit.

Of course, the pound was quickly back on to its losing streak as financial markets digested the full thrust of Mrs May’s speech, viewed widely as a last-ditch and badly judged throw of the dice aimed at forcing her highly unpopular Brexit deal with the EU through Parliament. The offer of a vote on whether to hold a second referendum was, predictably, conditional on MPs approving her deal.

Amid swift and strongly worded opposition from other parties and many of her own MPs to her Brexit “new deal”, which was seen as little if anything more than the old one dressed up, sterling was once again back on the ropes as fears of a disorderly or otherwise damaging Brexit mounted. With Mr Johnson being touted as a future prime minister, it is easy to see why these fears have intensified.

Sterling dropped to within a hair’s breadth of $1.26 during yesterday’s session, amid fevered speculation over Mrs May’s future, as the unnecessary Brexit folly, visited upon us by former prime minister David Cameron’s decision to have a referendum in the first place, continued to weigh. The pound is far adrift of the near-$1.50 levels at which it traded on June 23, 2016, ahead of the EU referendum result.

Scotland, given its demographic challenges, would be hugely affected by the UK Government’s essentially hard-Brexit preference and the Conservatives’ determination to reduce immigration dramatically.

If the Brexiters continue to want to challenge the realities of the situation, they need look only as far as the UK Government’s own forecasts, which show economic damage for every single Brexit scenario relative to staying in the EU.

Read More: Ian McConnell: If Brexit were a vampire movie, it would be time for stake and garlic

The SNP has been bold in its opposition to leaving the EU, flagging in particular the importance of the single market that enables free movement of people, goods, services and capital. Of course, Scotland voted decisively to remain in the EU back in June 2016. The Liberal Democrats have also taken a decisive position in opposing Brexit.

Opinion polls have in recent times suggested that there is now a majority in the UK as a whole to remain in the EU. Not that this has swayed Mrs May, who has remained utterly, utterly determined to deliver Brexit, in accordance with public opinion at a moment in time in June 2016 following an aggressive campaign by Leavers that was big on fantasy and thin on reality.

For those businesses and households which see Brexit’s frightening ideology for what it is, the misery continues.

Declaring businesses were “crying out for certainty”, Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive Liz Cameron said Mrs May’s latest on Brexit this week had “done nothing to reassure us that we will avoid a disorderly exit from the EU”.

She talked about people and businesses in Scotland being “completely frustrated by yet more failure to agree a way forward”.

Tom Crotty, who chairs the Confederation of British Industry’s manufacturing council, warned that firms in the sector “are being forced into putting huge amounts of money and resources into contingency-planning that could have been spent on creating jobs or making investments in new technology”.

He declared: “This relentless Brexit uncertainty must be lifted as a matter of urgency.” There is not much sign of that happening, amid talk in financial markets about the possibility of a General Election in the near future and a belief that this could result in another minority government.

That said, while business might not like uncertainty, in this case it is surely better than actual Brexit in terms of keeping alive hope that the folly is ultimately abandoned. After all, Brexit would have a very significant damaging long-term effect under any scenario, year after year and decade after decade.

UK households, which have been at times surprisingly resilient in terms of their spending amid the Brexit fiasco, are not in an upbeat mood. They are, according to a report published this week by IHS Markit, at their most downbeat about their financial well-being since September 2017. The IHS Markit household finance index report signalled growing worries about job security, particularly in retail and manufacturing.

The justified worries of businesses and households contrast starkly with the ebullience and big smiles of high-profile Brexiters, as they bang their Leave drum in this relentless circus.