No one likes a doom-monger so I apologise for what I’m about to say.

Imagine it’s February 2021. The UK has been hit by a tidal wave of redundancies, pushing unemployment to levels not seen since Auf Wiedersehen Pet was on the telly.

At the same time, thanks to the Christmas party season, the dreaded second wave of coronavirus is upon us.

And to cap it all, the UK Government has just pulled us out of the European Union.

Hopefully, this bleak forecast is wrong. Hopefully, there will be a mere trickle of redundancies as employers embrace the Chancellor’s offer of £1,000 to keep on furloughed workers. Hopefully the Test and Protect scheme will be operating so swimmingly that outbreaks of Covid will be swiftly snuffed out.

And maybe all those dire prognostications about Brexit will have come to nought and the UK will have cut itself free from all obligations to Europe but kept all the benefits.

Maybe, but probably not.

There is the likelihood of a grim winter ahead, a winter to make our current celebratory midsummer mood seem madly misplaced, a winter in which economic hardship is compounded by the Covid crisis and a self-inflicted economic shock.

Set against that looming threat, Rishi Sunak’s lavish mini-budget has fallen short.

The trouble is that it’s almost impossible to imagine what package of measures any chancellor could offer that would seem sufficient to the potential scale of the challenge ahead.

There are elements that the Treasury has got right. Many businesses have warmly welcomed the hefty VAT cut for the hospitality sector.

The Kickstart work placement scheme for young people is also, in principle, a progressive policy.

But while the Chancellor may be enjoying the good opinion of several newspapers, there is an artificiality as well as a whiff of danger for him in all this fawning approval. The former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg would recognise it. Like Sunak, Clegg was the toast of journalists in April 2010, mid-economic crisis, but by the winter he was derided. Clegg’s sin was to break his key manifesto promise; the danger for Sunak is that all his lavish spending fails to preserve jobs.

Civil servants don’t demur on flagship government policies unless they have serious misgivings, so it’s ominous for the Chancellor that Jim Harra, HM Revenue & Customs’ top official, wrote to him saying he was unable to conclude that the Jobs Retention Bonus “represents value for money”. The plan entitles firms to a grand in their pocket for every furloughed worker retained for three months after the furlough scheme ends, but officials don’t know how many jobs it will save. Mr Harra expressed similar concerns about the Chancellor’s 50 per cent meal deal plan for August.

The letter appears to be a political distancing measure. Between the lines, it reads: on your head be it, minister.

One can understand the unease. The Jobs Retention Bonus is fraught with the potential for unintended consequences. Firms will get the money even if they had no intention of laying off furloughed staff. It appears to do nothing to stop firms employing furloughed staff until the end of January, pocketing the cash and then making them redundant in February. It provides them with no incentive to keep on staff who haven’t been furloughed.

Perhaps above all, though, it’s doubtful that the payment is enough to make companies retain staff, given that the average wage is £530 a week. The National Institute for Economic and Social Research calls the measure “badly timed” and warns it could “rapidly” increase unemployment as employers who had hoped the furlough scheme would be extended decide to make staff redundant. Two million or more unemployed remains an alarmingly real possibility.

Just yesterday, John Lewis and Boots announced 5,300 job losses between them, while First Group, the Aberdeen-based rail and bus company, has warned over its ability to “continue as a going concern”.

The plan to guarantee those aged 16-24 on Universal Credit a six-month work placement, meanwhile, shows a desire to prevent the alarming rise in youth unemployment that followed the financial crash 10 years ago. But it exposes the Government’s business-as-usual approach, since the jobs are likely to be low-paid and part-time. It’s unclear what long-term benefits it offers.

As for the three million excluded from any support, including the newly self-employed and PAYE freelancers, Mr Sunak’s plan offers nothing.

And the mini budget just tries to address the immediate economic crisis. As opposition parties pointed out, this plan does nothing to tackle child poverty.

As for the so-called green recovery, the Chancellor’s £2 billion for home energy efficiency in England is a genuinely worthwhile investment, but where are the measures to support renewables, particularly the development of novel technologies? Where are the measures to promote a sustainable transport system? We have to hope it’s still to come.

The Scottish Government for its part has been complaining that only £21 million of the £800m in consequentials for Scotland is new money, but this is contested by the independent Institute of Fiscal Studies. The spat is arguably a distraction anyway. The Chancellor has spent generously, but, given the uncharted depth of the recession that’s upon us and the likelihood of further trauma to come, no level of spend would be widely accepted as sufficient.

That said, it matters enormously how the money we do have is spent. That’s why Mr Sunak’s mini budget may come to be viewed, in time, as a missed opportunity.

Worse than that, however, is Brexit, because it is an entirely deliberate complication that is set to hit the UK’s trade with the EU at the worst possible moment.

The Brexiteer dream of frictionless trade in goods and services, membership of every EU institution we consider useful and the right to decide what happens to every fish in British waters, was always a mirage. Michel Barnier has pointed to “significant differences” remaining between the two sides. Whatever comes out of it will be worse for UK companies than what we have at present; we may even end up without a comprehensive trade deal.

And so businesses already fighting for their lives must brace themselves for their government deliberately disadvantaging them in trade too.

Rishi Sunak had better enjoy the public approbation while he can. Things are likely to look very different by February.