It has been somewhat demoralising, to say the least, to observe the standard of debate on the economy between the Conservatives and Labour so far in the run-up to the July 4 General Election.

To say that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s television debate with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on ITV last Tuesday night was uninspiring would be a gentle euphemism.

It has been left to veteran Tory Lord Michael Heseltine to name the elephant in the room that Mr Sunak and Sir Keir seem determined to ignore: Brexit.

The refusal by the party leaders to talk about this big issue seemed all the more lamentable, as well as truly farcical, when arch-Brexiter Nigel Farage announced last week that he would after all be standing in the General Election. This was a mild surprise. However, there were certainly no prizes for guessing the constituency in which he would be standing: the Brexit heartland of Clacton in Essex.

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For his part, of course, Sir Keir has gone from arguing passionately against Brexit in late 2019 to wholeheartedly embracing the folly.

So it is perhaps no surprise that the debate between Sir Keir and Mr Sunak, on the issue of the economy, fell somewhat flat last week. There was nothing to instil hope for the future of a UK economy characterised by protracted malaise.

Both seem quite content to accept ongoing damage from the Tory hard Brexit, with Sir Keir having pledged that Labour will not take the UK back into the European single market or even the customs union. So the pair have nothing to argue about or debate here really. They are both essentially on the same page, with only minor differences around the edges.

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It is a truly remarkable situation. Yet it is the state of affairs with which the UK population is saddled, unfortunately.

As Mr Sunak and Sir Keir continue to dance around the big issue, it is left to Lord Heseltine and others to flag the dire reality of the situation.

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Lord Heseltine, president of the European Movement UK, declared late last month: "I think this will be the most dishonest General Election of my life.

“Why? Because it’s going to talk about all the problems, but avoid any of the real solutions which depend upon a closer relationship with Europe. You can’t have a discussion about the country’s economy, or its defence, or immigration, without mentioning Brexit.”

It is indeed a bizarre situation when the big solutions, relating as Lord Heseltine points out to a closer relationship with Europe, are entirely off the table.

You can understand why the Conservative Government does not want to admit ahead of the General Election that the Tory hard Brexit has been a disaster, assuming of course they are not so deluded that they do not see it for what it is.

However, it is truly jaw-dropping, even taking into account Labour’s desire to pander to the “red-wall” voters who changed sides and swept Boris Johnson to power in December 2019, that Sir Keir does not want to point the finger at the damage done by Brexit.

He would rather take the view and spout the message that Brexit can be made to work, which is a truly bizarre stance and especially so given that he has pledged to keep the country out of the single market.

That said, if the opinion polls are right, Sir Keir does not appear to be suffering by ignoring the big issue and refusing to challenge the Conservatives on it.

This is also lamentable, providing confirmation if any were needed that we are in truly populist times.

Sir Keir, in the televised debate, tried to score points by declaring Mr Sunak was “the most liberal prime minister we’ve ever had on immigration”, implying Labour would be tougher.

Scotland particularly, but also the UK as a whole, is suffering very badly indeed from the plunge in immigration from European Economic Area countries in the wake of the 2016 Brexit vote.

At the end of 2020, we lost the huge benefits of free movement of people between the UK and EEA, so the country’s growth potential is permanently limited in the context of the pool of labour and skills unless there is a change of heart on this front.

It remains difficult indeed to see why anyone with an interest in economic prosperity and living standards would take the view that, even though it is plain to see the years of damage from Brexit ahead of us, we just need to continue down this foolish road the Tories have put us on.

People suggest there is no solution. That is not the case. Rejoining the single market would be a simple solution. What we have is a lack of will to do so from whoever will be leading the country after the election.

This is poor leadership.

If a chief executive took the view that their company should just continue to rack up damage from a very poor decision taken some years ago, they would probably be out on their ear.