AS Boris Johnson makes a drama out of the Brexit crisis, with a No. 10 source making a right meal of a seeming impasse with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over an Irish border backstop alternative, businesses and households plough their way through the mess he is enthusiastically exacerbating.

The pound has been on the ropes for most of this week, reflecting a firm belief that a no-deal Brexit would greatly diminish the UK’s economic prospects.

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Financial-market players do not see no-deal as the most likely outcome. However, with the Prime Minister and his adviser Dominic Cummings still banging on about an October 31 departure regardless of Parliament’s passing of legislation to stop a no-deal Brexit, it is easy to see why they are nervous. Any glimmer of hope is seized upon, such as Mr Johnson and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s statement yesterday about seeing a “pathway to a possible deal”.

But it is crucial to realise sterling’s weakness since summer 2016 also reflects an awareness of the major dent in the UK’s prospects from leaving the single market with a deal, which would still be a hard Brexit.

As the Scottish October school holidays approach, families will once again be paying a Brexit surcharge in terms of the much-reduced value of the pound in their pockets as a result of the summer 2016 Leave vote.

At least they are, for now, still able to travel hassle-free throughout the European Union, something the arch-Brexiters seem determined to put an end to by hauling the UK out of the single market. This hard-exit drive has, combined with the ruling Conservatives’ measures, created a lamentable and utterly unacceptable degree of uncertainty for citizens of other EU countries living in the UK. Many of these people have inevitably voted with their feet and moved elsewhere, to the UK’s cost.

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Households across Scotland and the rest of the UK, however they voted in the referendum, have not yet seen the utterly grim effects of leaving the single market.

If the Brexiters have their way, these will unfold surely over coming years and decades. The speed with which the damage arrives and its scale in the short term will depend to some extent on whether or not there is a deal. But any form of hard Brexit would be very costly.

Households are counting the cost already incurred as a result of the 2016 vote, in terms of the damage this has already done to the economy and living standards in the UK. Businesses also continue to foot the bill for the whole Brexit folly, brought on in the first place by former prime minister David Cameron’s ill-judged decision to have a referendum on EU membership in the first place. A vote that seemed aimed at healing deep Tory divisions over Europe but has done quite the opposite, with the public and businesses picking up the tab for all the foolishness.

A survey published this week by the Federation of Small Businesses shows member firms believe it has become harder to recruit and retain EU staff since the Brexit referendum.

The FSB’s research shows one in five small firms has a team member from the EU. Of these firms, 26 per cent believe recruitment of EU staff has become more difficult since the referendum. And 18% believe retention of EU staff has become more difficult. These are big percentages, especially in the context of a labour market beset by skills shortages in a raft of sectors and given demographics, in terms of future working-age population. The demographic challenges are, of course, particularly great in Scotland. However, as noted previously in this column, you would hardly expect Mr Johnson to lose sleep over Scotland’s particular woes.

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FSB chairman Mike Cherry said: “European staff are absolutely critical for our small businesses with many relying on their skills and labour to grow, thrive and survive. This need flows across a wide range of sectors and skill levels – from care workers, to engineers, to office workers.” The importance of workers from other EU countries is plain for all to see. It should even be evident to arch-Brexiters, if they care to put aside their ideology and take a look.

Yet they do not seem to care. This is demonstrated by the lack of worry over a no-deal scenario on the part of Mr Johnson and Mr Cummings.

Mr Cherry warned: “Worryingly, uncertainty over EU citizens living and working in the UK is now really starting to hamper small firms’ ability to plug these chronic skills gaps. Coupled with falling EU immigration figures, we are in danger of shrinking an already-diminishing talent pool and exacerbating a widening skills gap in the UK.”

Sadly the current Conservative Government, even though the Tories might continue to tout themselves as the party of business, does not appear to see any need to pull the finger out and address these justified concerns.

The FSB hammered home the need for something that “guarantees the rights of EU citizens living and working in the UK and of UK citizens living and working in the EU” in the event of Brexit.

This makes perfect sense. But it does not seem to be a priority of Messrs Johnson and Cummings.

All the while, the UK’s grim productivity performance continues.

The UK recorded its sharpest year-on year drop in productivity since 2014 in the second quarter, official data showed this week, with economists citing the impact of uncertainty as Brexit worries dominate. Output per hour worked in the second quarter was down 0.5% on a year earlier.

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY ITEM Club think-tank, flagged companies’ preference for taking on labour, rather than committing to costly investment amid the uncertain economic and political outlook, and the consequences for UK productivity.

He added: “Employment may have been lifted in recent times by some UK companies being keen to take on workers – or at least hold on to them – given increasing concerns over labour shortages in some sectors and reports of fewer EU workers coming to the UK since the 2016 Brexit vote.”

This is an entirely sensible course of action for companies.

Do the arch-Brexiters actually not see the damage their poor choices will inflict in terms of the UK not having the workers it needs for prosperous growth? Or is it that they know the economy would tank if the no-deal outcome favoured by many of them comes to pass, and therefore see labour and skills shortages being alleviated because of a grim (and needless) surge in unemployment?