AMID a plethora of posturing ahead of next week’s resumption of negotiations between the UK and European Union over Brexit, there has been a real Groundhog Day vibe about things.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he wants a Canada-style trade deal. The EU says the problem with this is that the UK is not Canada. And the UK Government, which has shown a real ability to play to the gallery and continues to rail against regulatory alignment with the EU, is now even signalling it could walk away from negotiations in June if there is a lack of “good progress”. Toys out of the pram and all that.

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This week we have also seen Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin, who was in such celebratory and seemingly conciliatory mood when the UK got its technical Brexit on January 31, wade back into the debate by seemingly arguing against any particularly close future relationship with the EU.

It appears nothing much has changed since the June 2016 Brexit vote. That is in large part because, whatever Mr Johnson and his adviser Dominic Cummings might have indicated to the electorate with their “Get Brexit Done” messaging, nothing much has actually changed yet. The Brexiters will not want to hear this but it is true. They either truly believe, or want to persuade themselves or others, that Brexit is done, nothing bad has happened and that is the end of the matter.

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In reality, the whole situation in terms of the future UK-EU relationship looks as intractable as ever.

What has changed is that Mr Johnson and his Government are now on the clock. The UK’s January 31 departure from the EU started the clock ticking on an 11-month transition period that always looked way too short.

And there seems to be plenty of scope for growing alarm among businesses and households as we get closer to the end of this period, which Mr Johnson has in typical style pledged not to extend.

Another thing which has changed is that any hope of remaining in the European single market one way or the other, and retaining free movement of people and frictionless trade, looks to have been extinguished completely with Mr Johnson’s big election majority last December. At that point, many things became inevitable, sadly including the Conservatives’ drive, highlighted by Mr Johnson in the days before the December 12 election, to “bear down” on immigration.

What we have seen of the Tory vision for the post-transition-period UK has looked utterly grim. What has been trumpeted by Mr Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel, to replace the free movement we currently still have to the UK from other EU countries, is an Australian-style, points-based immigration system.

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This is causing real worry in the business community, amid huge demographic challenges in terms of an ageing UK population, not to mention a tight labour market and existing skills shortages.

Ms Patel has claimed the new system will end routes for “cheap, low-skilled labour”. This is a woeful mischaracterisation of the situation.

As an aside, it is interesting to see the Conservatives seemingly portray themselves as champions of ordinary British people in this context, given what they have done over decades to clamp down on trade unions and generally dismantle employment rights. This track record is very worrying for a post-Brexit future, with the EU having provided important safeguards on this front.

In any case, ordinary people’s living standards benefit from strong economic growth. And such growth will be hampered very significantly in the UK by the immigration clampdown planned by the Conservatives.

Worryingly, some Brexiters seem to believe that, with the departure from the EU in their minds “done”, people should no longer raise such inconvenient matters as the major damage which will ensue when we no longer have free movement of people between the UK and EU countries. Or the effect of the impending end of frictionless trade. Damage has already, of course, been done by the plunge in net immigration to the UK from EU countries in the wake of the Brexit vote.

The verbal jousting ahead of next week’s resumption of negotiations shows we are much closer to the start than the end of the actual Brexit process. Yet some Brexiters trot out their faux boredom or actual annoyance when they see any analysis of the reality of the situation. It seems, in the minds of these people, some others should not be allowed to even talk about Brexit (presumably those who thump their tubs and say Brexit is great would be exempt from this intolerance).

Returning to Ms Patel’s characterisation of the Tory immigration clampdown, it is interesting to read Scottish Engineering chief executive Paul Sheerin’s views on the policy outlined by the UK Government.

Writing in Scottish Engineering’s quarterly report, published today, Mr Sheerin describes news of the Tories’ immigration policy after the transition period has ended as “disturbing”.

And, in contrast to the ideological Brexiters who choose noise over substance, he sets out the reasons clearly.

Mr Sheerin says: “An unwelcome point of clarity on Brexit...was the UK Government’s confirmed plan to overhaul the immigration system, ending the EU freedom of movement from December 31, 2020. This is disturbing news for our sector where the salary caps (thresholds) remain above ordinary operator level and many companies are already struggling to recruit semi-skilled staff.”

This on-the-ground reality is somewhat different from the seemingly more ideologically based characterisation of the situation peddled by Ms Patel.

Mr Sheerin adds: “Given Scotland’s forecast population shrinkage, a more flexible immigration system which reflects the needs of our labour market is still required.”

All of this, including the highlighting of Scotland’s particular challenges, looks likely to fall on deaf ears at Westminster.

After all, the immigration clampdown is what Brexit has been all about for some of its most zealous supporters right from the start. And Mr Johnson, as noted, made no bones about the Tory desire to “bear down” on immigration.

Mr Johnson’s desired Canada-style trade agreement between the UK and EU would, the Conservatives’ own forecasts show, cause significant economic damage.

Such a deal, even if the EU were to agree it, would create plenty of friction when it comes to trade. There are still some tariffs in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the EU, which took many years to conclude. And there are quotas, and border checks. Meanwhile, such an arrangement would do little for the services sector.

In any case Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s head of task force for relations with the UK, said this week: “The UK says that it wants Canada. But the problem with that is that the UK is not Canada.”

He cited the UK’s proximity to the EU. He also noted much-larger trade volumes between the UK and EU. These are both indisputable facts. Canada-EU trade is very small relative to UK-EU volumes.

There have also been rumblings about potential for the UK Government to pursue a Singapore-style model after Brexit. Britain is not Singapore either.

As we have approached the resumption of Brexit negotiations, the voices of those who feel the EU has somehow crimped the UK’s sovereignty have returned to the fore.

Pubs giant Wetherspoon declared this week that Mr Martin “has warned UK and EU negotiators that the UK public will not be fooled by a deal that fails to achieve a real restoration of democracy”.

Mr Martin claimed: “If [French President Emmanuel] Macron and Barnier don’t want a deal, or make threats, consumers will simply reject EU goods and will buy from the rest of the world – as Wetherspoon has shown by swapping French brandy and champagne, and German spirits and beers, for UK and new world alternatives.”

Lamentably, Mr Martin’s declarations seem in tune with the mood of many arch-Brexiters.

The whole situation in the UK sadly looks most inauspicious as Mr Johnson’s Government prepares to embark on negotiations to secure the comprehensive future free-trade agreement the Tories claim they want.