THE fact that the mere announcement of the Brexit timetable by Prime Minister Theresa May seemed to be enough to send the pound tumbling should be a cause for very significant concern.

Matters have undoubtedly been compounded by a certain attitude from Mrs May and others in her Government, one which has raised fears they will pursue a “hard Brexit” course at the expense of free access to the European single market.

The pound yesterday hit a 31-year low against the dollar.

Buoyed by the pound’s weakness, which makes the overseas earnings of international companies listed on the UK stock market worth more in sterling terms, the FTSE-100 share index climbed by 90.82 points to 7,074.34 points. It had not been above 7,000 points since May 2015.

But this does not reflect confidence about UK economic prospects. For an assessment of those, look at the pound.

The International Monetary Fund yesterday cut its forecast of UK growth next year again, to 1.1 per cent. This is half the rate of 2017 expansion it was predicting before the June 23 Brexit vote. With the weak pound fuelling import prices, the IMF projects UK inflation will surge to about 2.5 per cent next year.

Mrs May has pledged to trigger the start of the formal two-year EU exit process for the UK by March. People and businesses face major uncertainty between now and then, during the negotiations, and probably well into the future.

This uncertainty is likely to weigh heavily on the economy. And we can expect plenty more turbulence for the pound as the excruciatingly complex Brexit process grinds into gear.