There has been much speculation about what the departure of arch-Brexiter Dominic Cummings, who played such a key role in the Leave campaign, might mean for the UK’s talks with the European Union, if anything.

Who knows for sure? However, what it is essential to realise is that, with or without Mr Cummings, everything remains very much the same. We should not be fooled by any Conservative spin into thinking otherwise.

Notably, the essence of the ideological Brexit campaign of which Mr Cummings was a key architect, and its tiresome rhetoric, have been to the fore from the UK side ahead of the latest round of talks with the EU this week on the post-Brexit relationship. And this was after Mr Cummings, Boris Johnson’s adviser, left Downing Street with immediate effect on Friday.

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The important thing to remember is Mr Johnson is still the Prime Minister. He was elected last December on a “get Brexit done” ticket. He did, technically, but not in any meaningful way thankfully, on January 31. And we forget at our peril the fact that Mr Johnson has a Cabinet full of people who seem to love Brexit, including Michael Gove, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab et al.

So we must be wary of overestimating what, if anything, the departure of Mr Cummings might change when it comes to the UK’s talks with the EU on a future trade deal. The bottom line is that the UK is still leaving the European single market – an act of enormous self-harm – deal or not.

And here we are again. Another week of Tory Brexit drama. And there was much posturing from the UK Government side as talks with the EU on the future relationship entered the latest of many crunch weeks.

Given December 31 is drawing ever nearer, the weeks obviously become ever more “crunch” with the passage of time.

And there are still major hurdles to be overcome.

The issues seem to remain the same. Crucially there is the level playing field issue, when it comes to fair competition and matters such as state aid, and food and other product standards. The EU, understandably, believes there should be a level playing field if the UK is to have the privilege of access to the world’s largest free trade bloc. The UK, of course, had this privilege but threw it away, with Conservative Brexiters appearing to favour British nationalist fervour over the huge economic benefits of membership of the European single market.

The UK meanwhile continues to make a lot of noise about its “sovereignty”, which was never in question anyway. And the fisheries issue, with which arch-Brexiters have whipped up British nationalist fervour, also appears still to be a sticking point in the talks. This issue does not amount to much in economic terms, but the Brexiters have seized upon it as an emotive one and a magnet for British nationalist sentiment.

Last week, the fair competition issue was highlighted by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier as he took a break from talks in London.

He posted a picture of himself looking at football pitches, with the BT Tower in the distance, on Twitter, with the message: “Short break from intense EU-UK negotiations in London. Went looking for level playing fields...”

Crucially, if the still-significant remaining hurdles are overcome in talks with the EU, what the UK will end up with in any case is only a relatively narrow free trade deal. Its economy will still be hit by losing the beneficial impact of free movement of people between the UK and EU from December 31 (whatever Priti Patel thinks). And the UK will also see its future output weighed down by the loss of truly frictionless trade over years and decades.

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It might not be utter no-deal chaos but it is the kind of dramatic separation that the arch-Brexiters, you would imagine including Mr Cummings, have been after all along.

This thing is not just about lorry queues in Kent. Such chaos would clearly be in the “not splendid” category but it is important to realise the corrosive long-term effects of Brexit will be very significant whatever happens from here.

It remains difficult to predict whether or not there will be a deal. Fears of a no-deal departure are rightly elevated but you can also see the reasons for speculation Mr Johnson might like to make a big deal of pulling something out of the hat at the 11th hour and claim it is a wonderful success. That Blighty has won. Regardless of whether or not the UK has to change its negotiating position (a stance which has looked ridiculously intransigent and obstructive). And crucially never minding the fact that any such trade deal would be a most-basic one which would mitigate only to a small extent the inevitably major damage from Brexit.

UK chief negotiator David Frost was, of course, leaving open the deal and no-deal possibilities as he headed for the Belgian capital again for another round of talks.

He tweeted on Sunday: “Arriving once again in Brussels shortly for another round of negotiations with EU and @MichelBarnier this afternoon. I and our British team have been in talks almost every day since 22 October.

“We are working to get a deal, but the only one that’s possible is one that is compatible with our sovereignty and takes back control of our laws, our trade, and our waters. That has been our consistent position from the start and I will not be changing it.”

Mr Cummings may have gone but the “take back control” rhetoric of this Conservative Government remains. Even though the UK has always had control.

Lord Frost, a former chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, also declared: “There has been some progress in a positive direction in recent days. We also now largely have common draft treaty texts, though significant elements are of course not yet agreed. We will work to build on these and get an overall agreement if we can.”

He added: “But we may not succeed. Either way, as the Prime Minister @BorisJohnson made clear on 16 October, people and businesses must prepare for the change that is coming on 31 December, most of which happens whether there is a deal or not.”

It beggars belief that businesses and households still do not know even at this late stage the extent of the chaos for which they should prepare.

That is not really something of Lord Frost’s making – he is acting on behalf of the UK Government and following its instructions. And sadly Lord Frost’s comment about changes either way is correct.

What he does not touch upon is the reality that it is impossible to see how these changes can be anything other than negative. Presumably he has a different perspective though?

Whatever the case, all this continuing huge uncertainty and inability to plan properly is not a good situation.

It is, as we find ourselves in this latest crunch week, worth looking back again at the Theresa May government’s forecasts of the actual economic impact of Brexit. Never mind the excitement over a US trade deal, which may be possible or not and in any case would deliver only tiny benefits relative to what will be lost with the UK’s departure from the European single market under any scenario.

The May administration’s 2018 projections show, even if there were no change to migration arrangements, UK gross domestic product in 15 years’ time under a no-deal Brexit scenario would be 7.7 per cent lower than if the country had stayed in the EU.

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The Tories, of course, plan to clamp down on immigration dramatically, and have legislated to that effect. Home Secretary Ms Patel declared last week she was “delighted” the immigration bill, ending free movement on December 31, had passed through Parliament.

Even for the hard-line Ms Patel, who has seemed desperate to clamp down on people from EU countries coming to the UK to live and work, this tone on immigration was remarkable.

On the basis there is zero net inflow of workers from European Economic Area countries, the forecasts from the May government have it that UK GDP in 15 years’ time would in a no-deal exit be around 9.3% lower than in a scenario in which the country had remained in the EU. Ms Patel should maybe have a think about this.

If the UK were to conclude an average free trade agreement with the EU, the hit to GDP would be 6.7% on the scenario of zero net inflow of EEA workers, according to the forecasts. And even with no change to migration arrangements, which is now clearly over-optimistic, the hit to UK GDP with the securing of an average free trade agreement would be 4.9%.

The Conservative Government noted in its own paper on its sought-after trade deal with the US that such an agreement could boost UK GDP by around 0.07% or 0.16% over 15 years under two different scenarios.

As the clock ticks down, and people become fixated on a deal or no-deal scenario, it is important to bear in mind the Brexit economic impact forecasts.

We must also remember that this Conservative Government has refused to extend the transition period, which has so far protected the UK from the actual Brexit effects by keeping the country in the single market. And it has refused to do so amid the coronavirus pandemic, and resultant economic crisis.

The EU trade agreement the Johnson administration says it is trying to negotiate would of course be better than a chaotic no-deal Brexit. It would spare businesses a small amount of the huge hassles they will unfortunately inevitably face in any case, and limit to a modest extent the economic damage relative to falling back on World Trade Organisation terms.

However, such a deal would be nothing to celebrate. Amid all the uncertainty, that is one thing that is for sure. As is the fact this Tory Government will not be changing its spots with Cummings’ exit.