SOMETIMES you hear one thing after another, on radio or television, and the random sequence seems most apposite. And so it was this week.

Hard Times in the Mill, a song by the late American folk singer and civil rights activist Pete Seeger, is currently featuring in a Volvo advert, and it is one of those tunes that gets stuck in your head.

The Volvo advert focuses on an early morning start and a vehicle pulling out safely from a driveway.

However, the lyrics seem most fitting at the moment amid all the difficulties arising for so many people from the human tragedy that is the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fall-out from it.

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The song starts thus: “Every mornin’ at half-past four/ You hear the cooks hop on the floor/ It’s hard times in the mill my love/ Hard times in the mill.”

This opening verse features in the Volvo commercial.

Next up was an offering from the Cabinet Office, headed by Michael Gove.

It seems from an external viewpoint that the much-admired Pete Seeger and Mr Gove could hardly be more different, in so many ways.

Yet the Cabinet Office’s offering on the airwaves chimed well with the struggles of the ordinary person portrayed in the song chosen for the Volvo commercial (a later verse, not featured, includes the lines “Ain’t it enough to break your heart/ Have to work all day, an’ at night it’s dark”). It surely did. This is presumably not the intended tone of the Government advert but the fact of the matter is it is spelling out the need to prepare, amid the pandemic, for further misery, entirely of the Conservatives’ own making. As the Tory Brexit heaps more woe on to myriad existing troubles.

The Brexit commercial features the impending January 1 date painted on a factory floor, and emblazoned on the side of a lorry trailer. The lines are delivered in short bursts by people in port, haulage, garage, furniture-making, construction site, bakery, high-tech manufacturing and data-room settings.

And the script is as follows: “Time is running out/ Businesses that deal with Europe/ will have to follow new rules from the 1st of January 2021/ If it crosses borders/…definite actions we need to take already/ No matter what/ New rules/ From 1st of January/ I’ll give you a second to jot that down/ First of Jan/ And getting ready can take longer than you think/ So get on it now at Got it?/ Good.”

All the way through a clock is ticking. Is this the same clock that has seemingly failed to provide the UK Government with any sense of urgency as time ticks down to the December 31 end of the transition period, when the effects of Brexit from which the UK has been hitherto protected will crystallise?

The ticking clock is reminiscent of the “tick tock” trailer in 2016 for Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass. The clock in the Cabinet Office Brexit advert is ticking more quickly but that seems appropriate enough.

Returning to the sequence of the commercials heard this week, it is impossible to escape the appropriateness of the “hard times” line to the UK Government’s Brexit mess.

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The latest Cabinet Office commercial seems at odds with previous, more fluffy adverts from the UK Government attempting to portray Brexit as a good thing.

In particular, the latest advert is undoubtedly issuing a warning. Do these things or you will be faced with big problems. The list of things that must be done is extensive.

And this list might come as a surprise to some businesses and many households, and especially to people taken in by the Brexit propaganda. After all, the Brexiters painted their odyssey as a fabulous adventure with only upsides. They did not mention the grim economic consequences for all of us or the huge burden for businesses in adapting to a Brexit mess that is entirely of the making of this Conservative Government and predecessor Tory administrations from 2010.

People heard Prime Minister Boris Johnson talk last autumn about an “oven-ready” Brexit deal.

Liam Fox, the former international trade secretary, claimed back in July 2017 that a free trade agreement with the European Union should be “one of the easiest in human history” to reach.

Yet now there is a huge list of things that the Government is telling businesses they must prepare for as the end of the transition period looms. People could be forgiven for being confused.

When it launched the “time is running out” phase of its Brexit information campaign earlier this month, the UK Government declared: “The UK is leaving the EU’s single market and customs union at the end of the year and there are some definite actions businesses need to take now. These actions are required whether we end up with Australian or Canadian-style trading arrangements.”

Canadian-style is UK Government shorthand for a relatively narrow trade deal. While this would not be as bad as a no-deal departure, there would nevertheless still be a hugely detrimental impact on the UK economy and living standards from leaving the European single market.

Australian-style essentially means no deal and World Trade Organisation terms.

No reference to an “oven-ready-style” deal these days, it is interesting to note.

The definite actions laid out this month are as follows: “If you sell goods to the EU you must prepare for new customs procedures…If you travel to the EU for work purposes you will need to check if you need a visa or work permit and apply if necessary...If you employ overseas nationals you will need to prepare your business for the implementation of the new immigration system. From 1 January 2021, if you want to hire anyone from outside the UK, including from the EU, you must be a Home Office [licensed] sponsor...

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“If you are a UK business or organisation that receives personal data from contacts in the EEA [European Economic Area], you may need to take extra steps to ensure that the data can continue to flow legally at the end of the transition period. If you provide services in the EU, you must ensure that your qualifications are now recognised by EU regulations to be able to practice or service clients in the EU.”

This is quite a list, somewhat skated over even in the latest commercial with its “definite actions” line.

The “no matter what” line in the Brexit commercial is presumably a nod to the fact that the UK Government itself cannot yet tell businesses and households what the arrangements with the EU will be after December 31. Will there be a deal or not? Whether or not there is an agreement will be a very big deal for businesses in terms of what they are actually preparing for from “first of Jan”.

Hard-pressed businesses and households do not have time to be messed around. Yet they are being told by the Government (as a result of its shortcomings) to prepare for various Brexit scenarios at this late stage, as they deal with the coronavirus pandemic and the huge economic woes arising from it. In fact, businesses do not have time for any of this chaos from an entirely unnecessary Brexit.

Another advert on Brexit from the UK Government includes the delivery of a line about knowing “we’ve all got our hands full”. No kidding. This would appear to indicate an awareness on the part of the UK Government that people do not have time to be mucking about with this. If this is indeed the case, what is the Government playing at?

This week, outgoing Confederation of British Industry director-general Dame Carolyn Fairbairn urged the UK Government to conclude trade talks with the EU with a resolution so the country could move on from “suspended animation”.

In many ways, the suspended animation will prove to have been far better than the realities of Brexit. However, we are sadly where we are and, with the Government hell-bent on leaving the single market by December 31 no matter what, UK businesses and households have to hope that this does not occur under a no-deal scenario. Would that better options than a narrow deal were still possible, but Johnson and Co have ensured they are not.

It is crucial to realise that a deal, if it arises, will not prevent a huge detrimental effect on the economy and living standards from Brexit because the type of agreement being sought is very far away indeed from single-market membership. Do not be fooled if Mr Johnson holds up an 11th-hour deal as an amazing success which sets Britain up spiffingly for the future. The UK will lose truly frictionless trade and the huge benefits of free movement of people to and from EU countries. The economic cost over many years will be very great.

We are little more than two months from the end of the transition period. It is about four years and four months since the lamentable Brexit vote in summer 2016. You would have thought the Conservatives might be in a position by now to tell everyone just what the grand plan is. After all, they seem to be telling everyone else what to do in these hardest of times.

Of course, it is also most fitting that the ticking clock in the Government advert is reminiscent of Alice Through the Looking Glass.

The Brexiters have well and truly taken us down the rabbit hole.

And it is astounding the UK Government, given the misery faced by millions of households and hundreds of thousands of businesses, has chosen not to call even a temporary halt to its dangerous Brexit adventure amid a global pandemic as it continues full tilt towards its ideological fantasy land.