WITH every day that passes, the impression of the Brexiters as being utterly thrawn, to use a great Scots word, just keeps on growing.

It has so often seemed that Brexit-driven Conservative policy-makers have been at pains to be entirely contrary.

This has, of course, been going on for years now. Former prime minister Theresa May was determined to rule out the least-damaging form of Brexit – remaining in the single market – before negotiations with our long-suffering European Union neighbours even got under way in earnest.

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And the thrawn approach of those Conservatives who are oh-so-determined to drag the UK out of the EU – regardless of economic consequences and against the will of the electorate in Scotland and the likes of London – is surely one of the most striking aspects of this supersize fiasco.

Mrs May’s government published economic forecasts which confirmed that remaining in the single market was by far the least-damaging form of Brexit. Even at that stage, the May government would not countenance even the briefest contemplation of a change of tack, as it pursued its unbending ambition of leaving the single market and customs union, whatever the economic damage. And its own calculations showed this damage would be very, very significant.

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The cost of the Brexit folly has been unfolding surely since June 2016 with a plunge in net immigration from other EU countries to the UK, triggered by the Leave vote and the perception of Britain as a country wishing to become insular in a globalised world. And the damage will be felt even more acutely at the end of the transition period as Prime Minister Boris Johnson pursues his stated ambition to “bear down” on immigration. This will starve the UK economy of the skills and labour it needs to achieve its growth potential, against the backdrop of an ageing population and all the horrors that this holds for the public finances.

Then there will be the loss of frictionless trade. Overseas investors, such as car manufacturers with big UK plants, and domestic companies will have to decide how to react to this. Sadly, it looks like the Tories are pursuing maximum dislocation.

Car manufacturers and many thousands of other businesses the length and breadth of the UK would seem likely to have been unnerved by the latest manifestation of Tory Brexiters’ thrawn approach.

Chancellor Sajid Javid, in an interview with the Financial Times last week, appeared to go out of his way to declare, before the alarmingly short 11-month transition period even begins, that the UK would shun regulatory alignment with the EU. It is impossible to shake the notion that the Conservative Government is determined to make things difficult just for the sake of it.

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Mr Javid said: “There will not be alignment, we will not be a ruletaker, we will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union – and we will do this by the end of the year.”

It seems, sadly, that the impatience of the Tories to shut down the least-bad options remains as great as ever.

Amid this apparent impatience and ubiquitous obstinate determination, it seems the Tory Brexiters have even given up trying to paint Brexit as some kind of panacea. We are no longer having to listen to their big talk about gleaming new trade deals, with the years since the Brexit vote having failed to deliver anything significant on this front. And Mr Javid even conceded some businesses will not benefit from what is to come. Of course this is the case but the shift in message from the Tories is nevertheless interesting.

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Mr Javid said: “There will be an impact on business one way or the other, some will benefit, some won’t.”

This is the kind of grim deal-with-it stuff you get from the Tories when they have a big majority. Remember the Thatcher era? We have also seen this heavy-handed approach in the brushing aside by the Conservatives of the Scottish Parliament’s opposition to the Brexit bill.

In a comment which looked unfriendly towards business, Mr Javid said: “We’re also talking about companies that have known since 2016 we are leaving the EU.”

His remark that “admittedly, they didn’t know the exact terms” is a spectacular understatement, even by the standards of the current vintage of Tory ministers.

Graeme Roy, director of the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute, hit the mark this week. He said: “Recent reports that the UK Government will seek to pro-actively diverge from EU rules and regulations are worrying – firstly because such alignment is crucial for so many firms and secondly because it reiterates that the politics of Brexit appear to still drive decision-making rather than what is best for business or the wider economy.”

Scottish Chambers president Tim Allan warned: “Of particular concern to businesses will be the extent of divergence the UK Government plans to adopt between UK and EU regulation. This continued uncertainty, coupled with a continued sense of ‘election-style’ policy-making, has the potential to disrupt business planning...as well as negatively impacting on job creation.”

“Election-style policy-making” is a good description of the current scene.

With Burns Night being tomorrow, the thrawn Brexiters might want to reflect on a few lines from the Bard: “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us/ To see oursels as ithers see us!/ It wad frae mony a blunder free us,/ An’ foolish notion.”

It is from ‘To A Louse’ but it could hardly be more apposite in the context of the UK Government’s inflated sense of the country’s ability to go it alone with Brexit. The global stage will become ever-more challenging and competitive, and this is not the time to leave a powerful alliance, turn inwards and reflect on Days of Empire.

There seems little chance of Brexiters mulling the poetry of Robert Burns as they get ready for some pomp and ceremony on January 31, with the flying of Union Flags, a projected clock on Downing Street, and commemorative coins.

Their big “huzzah!” will surely be short-lived as they, along with everyone else, pay the economic price for the foolish notion of Brexit. Such economic costs are not an abstract thing, like some Brexiters’ curious impression they have not been British enough by being in the EU. The economic cost will be felt in living standards.