IF it were said that someone or something appeared to be “operating in a parallel universe where urgency is an abstract concept”, how many people could through this description alone divine the big political issue to which it pertained?

Here is a clue: it is an issue in relation to which many politicians and several UK Government departments seem in recent times to have been operating in a parallel universe.

The final clue would be that this particular parallel universe-type behaviour has been going on for nearly two years now.

For anyone who hasn’t got it yet, it’s all about Brexit again.

The criticism about urgency being an abstract concept was directed this week at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in relation to its Brexit preparations by Meg Hillier, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Labour MP Ms Hillier was speaking as the committee published its report on the department’s progress, or probably far more appropriately lack thereof, in relation to its Brexit work.

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The findings of the report were certainly eye-catching, although not surprising.

The committee declared: “Given the scale of the Brexit task facing the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and its significant domestic policy agenda, we are alarmed that the department has made virtually no attempt to re-order its priorities.”

It is difficult to avoid this summation by the committee conjuring up an image of Nero and Rome, although this might be far too European a comparison for the Brexiters.

Ms Hillier noted that the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy was responsible for around one-fifth of the “work streams” the Government must complete as the UK leaves the EU.

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And she declared: “The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy appears to be operating in a parallel universe where urgency is an abstract concept with no bearing on the Brexit process.”

She added: “The department told us it had not re-prioritised its overall programme of work, had not begun procurement for around a dozen essential digital systems and could not provide vital information about its workforce.”

And that, believe it or not, was not the end of the scathing criticism.

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Setting out the scale of the committee’s worries, Ms Hillier declared: “We have grave concerns about this apparent complacency, compounded by the lack of transparency on the department’s progress with what in some cases will be critical projects. Sensitivities around negotiations with the EU must not be used as an excuse to keep taxpayers and Parliament in the dark. We urge the Government to provide us with a swift update on the issues raised in our report.”

It seems that the excuse of sensitivities around negotiations is a very familiar one indeed from this UK Government and its ministers, when anyone has asked to look at how its work on Brexit is going.

Remember the rigmarole required earlier this year to get the Government to publish a Brexit analysis it had commissioned? This analysis, entitled “EU Exit Analysis – Cross Whitehall Briefing”, laid out the likely huge cost of Brexit.

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The PAC said: “As we reported in February 2018, the paucity of information in the public domain about what departments are doing to prepare for Brexit is undermining scrutiny of progress and we expect our committee, Parliament and the public to be kept meaningfully informed on what progress is being made, and at what cost. The Department [for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy] is a case in point.”

The committee’s conclusions in this week’s report chime with the unshakeable impression that the UK Government is watching the minute and hour hands move, as the clock ticks fast towards EU exit, without any greater idea of what to do. Deluded Brexiters meanwhile continue to celebrate their (pyrrhic) “victory”.

There is plenty of bullish talk from the likes of Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.

However, the firm impression remains that this is no more than blether.

The main “achievement” on the EU exit negotiations so far, if it can be described as such given we are talking here about limiting the damage caused by the Conservatives’ decision to hold a Brexit vote in the first place, is securing a transition deal.

It is interesting that the volume dial for the arch-Brexiters’ comments about there being no need for such a deal has been turned right down. As reality has dawned perhaps?

There would, of course, have been no need for a transition deal if former prime minister David Cameron had not called a referendum. However, after the Brexit vote, there was never any question that a transition deal would be essential.

It has been another generally demoralising week on the Brexit front.

A survey from the Confederation of British Industry highlighted the fact that, amid all the economic and political uncertainty, Scottish manufacturers’ investment intentions remain weak.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has been among those to highlight the depressing impact of the Brexit vote on UK business investment.

Thankfully, from a Scottish perspective at least, there has been one chink of light on the Brexit front this week.

A survey published on Monday, which included readers of websites of The Herald’s owner, Newsquest, and other publishers, shows 64 per cent of Scots believe the UK would be better off economically inside the EU single market. The corresponding proportion across the UK is just 52 per cent.

What practical difference, if any, this will make remains to be seen but at least the survey provides reassurance that a significant majority of Scots are outward-looking. The survey findings were also reassuring from the viewpoint of society, given the degree to which xenophobia appeared to influence the UK’s Brexit vote.

However, the response from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy to the PAC report was entirely lamentable.

It said it had, since the report was written, been given another £185 million of funding to help deliver a “successful Brexit” by employing an increased number of staff on its “Europe work”.

This is yet another fine illustration of the degree to which Brexit is a total waste of time and money, as well as an utter shambles.