“SOME things never change” was the adage that came to mind last week when reflecting on two very different topics – bank branch closures and the Brexit shambles.

Both these matters have, in recent years, provided plenty about which to be miserable.

And there has been something of a sad inevitability about each of them.

The two subjects formed the basis of my columns in The Herald last week.

The bank branch closure saga reared its ugly head again with the announcement late last month by Virgin Money, which takes in the Clydesdale Bank operation, that it was closing nearly one-third of its UK branch network. This impending closure of 39 branches will leave Virgin Money with just 91.

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: This humiliation for Brexiters is surely good for everyone else

In years gone by, there was much robust debate about branch closures, even where it was very small numbers.

However, it seems to have been a while since the passion around this big issue dissipated. With the exception of a few voices such as those of trade union Unite and some consumer champions, apathy now seems to be the order of the day when branch closures are announced.

In the old days, it appeared that banks were almost embarrassed to announce the closure of branches, and they seemed very wary indeed about a potential backlash in political circles and among customers. That seems most certainly not to be the case now.

Yes, footfall has fallen in branches. However, that does not make them any less valuable to those who are still in need of them, for a wide variety of reasons.

It is all about costs, it seems, for banks. And branch closures can surely not be dressed up as something which serves customers.

The huge problem now is that, among the big banks, branch closures are ubiquitous, so there is less prospect of customers pressuring the major players into a change of behaviour by voting with their feet.

On the Brexit shambles front, at least there was an albeit small change of behaviour last week from the Conservative Government.

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: New bank branch closures nightmare for Scottish towns

While this change looked to have been forced by the reality of the situation, it was not something which could have been taken for granted by businesses or anyone else given the hidebound tendencies of the Brexiters who hold sway in the Conservative administration at Westminster.

The Department for Business & Trade announced on Tuesday that recognition of the Conformité Européene (CE) safety mark in Great Britain would for most goods be extended indefinitely beyond the most recent December 2024 deadline.

Previously, it had been the intention of this Conservative Government that recognition of the CE mark in Great Britain would come to an end soon after the country’s departure from the European single market and that only the UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) certification would be accepted.

The list of goods for which recognition of the CE mark has been extended indefinitely by the Department for Business & Trade is extensive.

READ MORE: Denial after denial from brass-necked Tory arch-Brexiter

The climbdown has come in the face of serious concerns among businesses about the clock having been ticking on the tried, tested and trusted CE mark.

There is no doubt that the climbdown, which is surely another embarrassment for the Brexiters, is most welcome for everyone else.

What was less welcome was the Conservative Government appearing to try to claim that it had done something very positive, as opposed to merely warding off woe of which it was firmly the architect.

This disingenuous behaviour from the Tories, of course, also chimes with the “some things never change” adage.

We have seen plenty of such conduct from the Conservatives since 2016.

The backtracking and climbdowns have sadly been too few and far between but, where they have occurred, they have been accompanied by plenty of spin as the Conservative Brexiters have refused to take responsibility for the huge troubles they have caused.

The spin this week, as the CE mark climbdown was announced, was even by the standards of the current vintage of Conservatives somewhat remarkable.

The Department for Business & Trade declared: “The Business Secretary acted urgently on this issue, to prevent a cliff-edge moment in December 2024 when UKCA was set for entry. This intervention will ensure businesses no longer face uncertainty over the regulations and can cut back on unnecessary costs, freeing them up to focus on innovation and growth.”

The uncertainty was created by the Conservatives.

And cliff edges, or the threat of them, have truly been a hallmark of the Tories, and seem to have been more or less ever present since the Brexit vote.

Remember when Lord David Frost was negotiating Brexit with the European Union in what was surely an unnecessarily aggressive style? Lord Frost has arguably, since stepping away from government duties, raised even more eyebrows with his strident views on key issues, including his comments on global warming last month.

The Conservatives’ logic last week was bizarre. It was them who insisted on, pursued, and delivered a hard Brexit. As part of this, it was decided the CE mark would no longer be recognised on goods being placed on the market in Great Britain beyond the end of next year. This caused great uncertainty for businesses. And now the Conservative Government is saying its “intervention” will ensure businesses “no longer face uncertainty over the regulations”. Yet, just to reiterate, the ruling Tories caused the uncertainty in the first place.

Not for the first time, Brexit Britain has a real Alice in Wonderland feel about it.