This week a new report highlighted the cost of Brexit to the UK and Scottish economies. A cost to businesses of (another) £2billion, and an increase in inflation, when new import controls come into place this month. This isn’t the first report to highlight the costs of Brexit to business, consumers and our economy. And no doubt it won’t be the last.

The impact can be seen in the fortunes of businesses up and down the country. Brexit makes everything more difficult, and for no good reason. It’s harder to export to customers in the world’s biggest trading bloc. One of Scotland’s main exporters, our salmon industry for example, has seen a hit of £100m already.

It’s harder to import from Europe too – be that finished products that consumers buy or raw materials and intermediate products that our manufacturing businesses require. It makes it more difficult for UK businesses to compete – why would a European customer source from here if they can get the same product from a supplier in the EU with none of the added costs, delays or uncertainties?

It reduces investment. An international business needs more good reasons to set up here when they can access a much bigger market – without any constraints – by investing in the EU. Yes, we continue to attract businesses, but not as many as would be the case were we able to access a market of 500 million people. And it is harder work making the case to win the investment we do.

The biggest challenge most businesses face continues to be accessing skills and labour. That is the case in sectors from hospitality and tourism through to life sciences and advanced manufacturing. Leaving the European Single Market has made it harder not just for businesses but for our NHS to fill the gaps it has for doctors, nurses and social care workers.

It makes it more difficult for us to travel and for young people to access experiences and networks in universities and workplaces across the continent. That matters. For current and for future generations.

Yet despite the clear evidence that a sizeable majority think leaving the EU was a mistake – with polling consistently showing a 15% lead for Rejoin across the UK, and significantly more in Scotland – none of the UK parties are arguing for reversing Brexit. It’s not often that a majority position of the British population is so badly served by its political class.

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Even the Lib Dems now argue that Rejoin is unrealistic with leader Ed Davey saying it “is for the birds”. Worse than that there isn’t even a move towards a softer form of Brexit. Remember that the 2016 referendum was in answer to a simple question: Should the UK leave the European Union ? Nothing about the single market, free movement of labour or the customs union, all of which non-EU members already participate in to varying degrees.

Eventually, political gravity and economic common sense may prevail. Perhaps the UK in the coming years may gradually realign itself with the EU single market. Barriers that are clearly nonsense will be removed. It will be a long process and in the meantime this self-inflicted damage will have caused irreparable setbacks to our economy.

The Herald:

Rarely in the history of trade deals has a country negotiated a deal that reduced, rather than increased, market access. And the deals with third countries – those outside the EU – have been a mirage. The 40-plus deals the EU already has around the world have either been accepted by the UK – recognising that the deals the EU managed to negotiate due to its size were the best on offer – or, like the deals with Australia and New Zealand, have involved compromising key sectors – in this case our agricultural sector – in order to get a deal, any deal, signed in a hurry.

The one part of the UK that has managed to avoid some of the worst impacts of Brexit is Northern Ireland. The Protocol allows it to benefit from a foot in both the UK and EU markets, a deal that the Scottish Government has rightly pointed out would work very well in Scotland’s interests too but has been flatly turned down by the UK Government.

So yes, this week’s report is nothing special. Just another reminder of the damage that Brexit has done. But it’s important sometimes to take a step back, look at the bigger picture and remind ourselves that we don’t need to be here.

Things can be better. The UK, and of course Scotland, have other options. And we shouldn’t be afraid to make that case.