FRENCH pharmaceuticals giant Sanofi, which makes insulin, has arranged to stockpile medicines in UK warehouses as the spectre of hard Brexit looms, and the head of Britain’s car industry has warned that a no-deal scenario would be “seriously damaging”.

These developments are key elements of this week’s flurry of Brexit-related revelations and warnings. However, it remains difficult to shake the notion that, as the clock ticks towards the March 29 Brexit date and progress on any deal to mitigate the terrifying consequences of leaving the European Union remains elusive, the Tory Eurosceptics are still entirely unperturbed.

This impression was reinforced this week by a tweet from Ross Thomson, Conservative MP for Aberdeen South, as he set out, through a lengthy series of outpourings on Twitter, to hammer home his view of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Chequers plan on how to proceed in the Brexit negotiations. He described this plan as “the status quo but with none of the benefits”.

Such a remark, given the conspicuous absence of perceptible benefits from Brexit as well as the huge economic damage already done and the dangers to come, might pique the interest of some who fear the consequences of leaving the EU. What are these benefits of Brexit?

Two tweets later, and some might have viewed Mr Thomson as having entered utterly surreal territory. Unless, of course, everyone thinks the wattage of vacuum cleaners is crucial to the economic prosperity of the UK and the welfare and living standards of its citizens.

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Seemingly getting into his stride in his polemic against the Chequers plan, which has exacerbated the deep divisions in the Conservative Party over Europe, Mr Thomson tweeted: “Not only will we stay tied to bad regulations such as the EU ban on hoovers with motors more powerful than 900w we will be compelled to follow future EU regulations. Having left the EU’s institutions where these rules are decided the UK will become a voiceless rule taker.”

Wow. Does this mean we should forget about the utterly hair-raising nature of the economic situation because a no-deal exit could ensure the pile on carpets is unnaturally high in a post-Brexit Britain?

Whatever the science of vacuuming, Mr Thomson is obviously entitled to his opinion.

However, surely his concerns about vacuum cleaners pale into insignificance relative to the fact that a multinational drugs company is arranging to stockpile medicines because of uncertainty over the nature of the UK’s exit from the EU. Swiss pharmaceuticals company Novartis indicated it was also planning for a no-deal Brexit.

It is more than two years since the Brexit vote in June 2016. And there is now less than eight months to the date set for Brexit.

Given the UK’s lack of progress in its negotiations with the EU, the instability of the Westminster Government, and the monumental and deepening rift within the Conservative Party over Brexit, stockpiling is a sensible thing for companies such as Sanofi and Novartis to do.

Last month, Rolls-Royce chief executive Warren East raised the possibility of the engineering group having to stockpile parts if the UK got ever closer to the Brexit date without clarity on what was going to happen.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said this week: “No just not an option. It would be seriously damaging to the industry not just in the UK but in Europe as well.”

This week, we have also had a dire warning about the impact of Brexit on small firms. The Federation of Small Businesses, sounding the warning, declared that a transition period was “vital” so firms could “operate broadly as they do now until December 31, 2020.” Its research found 59 per cent of UK small businesses which export goods to countries in the European customs union feel trade will be impacted if overall costs increase as a result of having to complete additional customs declarations. And 11% of smaller firms say they would stop exporting to the EU. These findings should make the UK Government sit up and take note, but no doubt they will not.

FSB national policy chairman Martin McTague warned: “Smaller businesses, and those businesses they rely upon, simply don’t have enough time to prepare for a cliff-edge Brexit.”

And a survey published this week by Royal Bank of Scotland shows investment by Scottish businesses continues to decline amid Brexit uncertainty, with no sign this situation is about to improve.

Capital expenditure by Scottish companies has now fallen for six consecutive quarters, according to the survey, conducted in association with Strathclyde University’s Fraser of Allander Institute.

After an initial tumble in Scottish business investment in the immediate wake of the Brexit vote, there was then a brief rebound as company chiefs perhaps realised that less would change immediately than they might have expected.

But six quarters of falling investment shows that any such relief has long gone. What we are seeing now from companies looks more like a growing sense of dread.

The Conservatives have shown they are pretty adept at economic malaise since they came to power in 2010. Their austerity programme choked off growth, and Brexit has made things a whole lot worse.

The UK’s grim economic performance has hammered living standards. And these will be hit far harder still if the Brexit folly is pursued.

Given the gravity of the situation, which is illustrated well by the stockpiling of medicines, it is lamentable that autonomy to determine the wattage of vacuum cleaners is advanced as a benefit of Brexit. And the fact the Brexiters are clutching at such straws highlights just how utterly absurd it is to be leaving the EU at all.