IF anyone came up with a hare-brained scheme which experts warned would cause great damage, and then insisted on ignoring the advice and ploughing ahead, and the predicted trouble ensued in spades, you would expect them to be embarrassed.

You would also anticipate an apology.

However, there are exceptions to every rule.

The Brexit shambles is, of course, a case in point, with an utter, though hardly unexpected, lack of willingness on the part of the Conservative Brexiters to take responsibility for their mess.

We have become used by now to the total lack of embarrassment or apology from the Conservatives since they came to power back in 2010. Their austerity programme backfired spectacularly but they were unabashed and unapologetic. We should not have been surprised, having seen their brazen behaviour during the Thatcher-era yuppie boom and bust, which harmed so many communities permanently.

Unlike the top brass of private or public sector organisations who may well have had to move on for a single thing on the scale of the various shambles and major policy mistakes over which the Tories have presided, the Conservatives have since 2010 very much avoided taking responsibility. Not only that, but the right wing of the party, with its arch-Brexiters, has managed to harness the shambles for its own ends, tempting David Cameron into the 2016 referendum which the former prime minister lost.

Many people naturally felt left behind, amid the savage welfare cuts which constituted a central plank of the economic policy of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition from 2010 and have become embedded under the Tories on their own thereafter.

So, when the Brexiters pointed the finger at the European Union and blamed it for problems in reality brought on by savage austerity and poor economic management by the Tories, and by troubles which had their roots in the Thatcher-era deindustrialisation, they found a receptive audience. Many of those who were struggling lapped up this falsehood.

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Much water has flown under the bridge since. But the shambolic leadership of the Conservatives has been a common theme. That said, the refusal on Sunday by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to accept responsibility for the Brexit chaos was something special, even by Tory standards.

Jamie McMillan, of Lochfyne Langoustines, said late last week: “We have had no sales to the EU – our biggest market for live shellfish – in the last two weeks. If we go another week without that, we are finished.”

Seafood Scotland chief executive Donna Fordyce said: “Some businesses, which may have been run by families for generations, are now days away from collapse as a result of the agreement.”

When this was put to the Foreign Secretary by the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Mr Raab’s response was as follows: “I’m not convinced that that’s a result of the agreement.”

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This seems to be a truly incredible statement. The problems have arisen since the end of the transition period, when Mr Raab and his fellow Brexiters achieved their aim of ripping the UK out of the European single market with the narrowest of trade deals.

James O’Brien, presenter at radio station LBC, summed up Mr Raab’s excuse as follows: “A big boy did it and ran away.”

The UK Government was warned time and again by so many experts about the impact of Brexit. It opted for a narrow deal, amid its determination to assert the “sovereignty” it had in any case as part of the EU. This agreement might have been trumpeted by Boris Johnson for avoiding tariffs on goods but, by its very nature, it was always going to ensure plenty of non-tariff barriers and friction.

James Withers, chief executive of industry body Scotland Food & Drink, said on Monday: “Anger amongst Scotland’s seafood exporters has been simmering for two weeks now as the door to their most important market has been slammed shut. Many now fear for their survival. That anger has been stoked by a number of UK ministers dismissing this crisis as ‘teething problems’ or, worse still, trying to make jokes about it.”

We had this last week from arch-Brexiter Tory Jacob Rees-Mogg: “They’re now British fish and they’re better and happier fish for it.” Lamentable. Insensitive. Out of touch.

Mr Raab told the Andrew Marr Show: “Of course, we’ve always said...as we leave the transition period, and with a deal, but even more if we hadn’t have had a deal, there will be some teething problems. We’re very focused on working with all of the different sectors, including the fishing industry, to resolve any of these teething problems.”

To dismiss this shambles as “teething problems” is not only ridiculous but also insulting to all those affected by it.

And we have had reports of Scottish fishermen having to travel to Denmark to sell their catches to get a decent price in the wake of the UK’s exit from the single market.

HeraldScotland: Boris Johnson Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PABoris Johnson Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Mr Withers yesterday tweeted a picture of the fish market in Peterhead, declaring it was like a “ghost town”. He said: “What a sad sight. Europe’s biggest fish market in Peterhead like a ghost town. Built to deal with 10,000 boxes/day but with a few hundred. Boats tied up, exporters crippled. No Brexit image of lorry queues, it’s the sight of trade that isn’t moving at all.”

The UK Government should listen to those affected, and consider what needs to be done. Fast.

As Mr Withers said: “Compensation is now critical. However, that will only buy a little time.”

The UK Government spent a huge amount of money over months in the run-up to December 31 telling businesses to prepare for “new rules” on departure from the single market. However, it was only on Christmas Eve that the Prime Minister finally announced the trade deal with the EU, such as it was. And there was virtually no time for businesses to prepare for its ramifications.

HeraldScotland: Michael Gove Picture: Aaron Chown/PAMichael Gove Picture: Aaron Chown/PA

It has been a shambles. Mr Withers, who is seeing the situation close up from a food and drink sector perspective, declared: “We desperately need to press pause on the new bureaucratic checks on exports. We need time to get systems properly built as they keep falling down – as happened again over the weekend.”

With every day that passes, we see just how important frictionless trade has been to the UK, and the absolute stupidity of bringing it to an end.

Of course, arch-Brexiter and Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove, who has made so much of how good he thinks being out of the EU will be, was responsible for much of the planning for the departure from the single market. Maybe the dog ate his homework?

Brexit was always going to be hugely damaging. And the forecasts drawn up by the Conservatives themselves, when Theresa May was in charge, show that.

The May government forecasts were that, on the basis of an average free trade agreement with the EU, the hit to UK gross domestic product relative to having stayed in the bloc would on a 15-year horizon be 6.7% on the scenario of zero net inflow of European Economic Area workers. With no change to migration arrangements, now an over-optimistic scenario, GDP was forecast, with an average trade deal, to be 4.9% lower in 15 years’ time than if the UK had stayed in the EU.

The damage would have been worse still with no deal. But we must still recognise the narrow agreement that Mr Johnson has delivered, which excludes the giant services sector altogether and is causing so much trouble for goods exporters already, is hugely damaging to living standards, over years and decades.

And it has caused plenty of immediate woe, the brunt of which has been borne by hard-pressed businesses and households already buckling under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Scottish seafood sector’s woes are very real, as are those of many other exporters.

The whole thing is a dismal mess.

Yet we cannot even get an apology from Mr Raab. There was an apology from Mr Johnson in November 2019, but, in this Alice in Wonderland realm of the Brexiters, it was for something that benefited the population, by postponing misery. His “deep regret” was over not delivering the dismal Tory Brexit by his deadline of Hallowe’en 2019.

The lack of embarrassment and apology from the Tories for the actual troubles they have caused is of course all the more unacceptable because they had the opportunity to park their Brexit folly for a while. The EU, the continuing member nations of which have like the UK been facing huge challenges in tackling the Covid-19 crisis, offered to extend the transition period.

The Tories refused to extend it.

Not only that but we must remember the narrow trade deal we have is the result of the Tories’ political choices. The least-damaging form of Brexit would have been ongoing single-market membership, which would have ensured continuing frictionless trade in goods and services. However, the Conservatives were unwilling to accept continuing free movement of people and banged on relentlessly about how they did not want to be bound by EU rules, with their supposed new-found sovereignty.

As the Brexit shambles has got into full swing, including shortages of some foods throughout the UK and a particularly chaotic situation on this front in Northern Ireland, the Leavers remain unable to show any actual benefits from their folly.

There has been talk in recent days about making the UK the “Singapore of Europe”. What rubbish.

None of the big brave new free trade deals promised by the Brexiters have emerged. Of course, the benefits of the deal the Tories have been trying to do with the US would be tiny relative to what is being lost with the end of single-market membership. Such a deal would, according to the Johnson administration’s own forecasts, add 0.16% at most to UK GDP on a 15-year horizon.

The Conservatives’ talk of sovereignty and being like Singapore is tiresome. They refuse to accept responsibility for the actual chaos, which is plain for all to see. And, given Mr Raab seems to have the audacity to claim the Scottish seafood sector’s woes might be unrelated to loss of single-market membership, the Tories will no doubt refuse to take the blame for the damage to the economy and living standards in the years ahead. Plus ça change.