The National:

THE European Commission on Tuesday stepped into the border chaos caused by wide-ranging EU travel bans on those coming from the UK and the French block on freight, calling for full bans to be lifted.

The France-UK border closure has been painful and damaging but also brings sharply into focus the reality of the interdependence of the UK and EU economies. Brexiteer illusions of a stand-alone sovereign independence have been exposed for what they are – ideological fantasies.

More border queues and confusion are in prospect for the new year due to Brexit rather than Covid. EU-UK talks are now going down to the wire on fish - with the UK having moved substantially from its recent positions - but a Brexit deal is still not clinched.

In nine days time, the UK will leave the comfort of the EU’s single market and customs union with or without a deal.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson caught laughing about No-Deal Brexit at Covid conference

Even with a deal, it’s now not clear how it could be ratified on time by January 1 – even a provisional ratification by EU member states (strongly contested by the European Parliament) cannot be done in just a day.

This week’s chaos has led to calls, including from Nicola Sturgeon, for an extension of the transition period. These have fallen on deaf ears in London. Johnson will not ask for any such extension – his promise to his core base and Tory Brexiter colleagues at Westminster is that the UK embarks on its freedom path from the beginning of the year.

And legal experts disagree, too, on whether the EU could offer an extension if asked; the Withdrawal Agreement was clear, after all, that any request had to be made by the end of June this year.

The National: Boris Johnson will not ask for a Brexit extensionBoris Johnson will not ask for a Brexit extension

And even if a legal mechanism could be found, this can’t be done with a flick of a switch. An extension of the transition period would raise issues that would need to be negotiated – on a UK financial contribution, on free movement and whether, for instance, settled status would then be available to all those who move to the UK or EU during the extended transition and so on.

Pulling the negotiating teams off pinning down a deal to instead agreeing an extension to transition is not going to happen.

As it stands, it looks more likely that a deal will be done than not – with December 30 said to be pencilled in for a potential Westminster vote. Any chances of serious scrutiny of the deal will be pushed to one side by this timetable – although the European Parliament would still scrutinise a deal in the new year if there is only provisional application on the EU side (which can be agreed by the member states).

Even with a deal more border chaos beckons. There will be no time for businesses or other organisations and individuals to absorb all the implications of the deal by January 1. But EU states such as France and the Netherlands look much better prepared than the UK for the array of customs and regulatory checks that will then apply.

The UK is struggling to ensure adequate lorry parks in Kent, never mind properly tested new computer systems to help cope with the bureaucracy, barriers and costs that Brexit implies.

READ MORE: Food shortages fears over ports chaos with 1500 lorries stuck in Kent

Whether any basic trade deal will include any transitional measures to ease border and trade pains on January 1 is unclear. There is a EU-UK agreement to allow short grace periods for some of the animal and food products health and security checks that will be needed on the Britain-Northern Ireland border. And the UK has said it will not implement full checks on goods coming from the EU in the first six months of 2021 – but the EU expects to have full checks from day one.

The last two days’ border chaos due to the spread of the new Covid strain is a deeply disturbing taste of the Brexit confusion to come in less than two weeks time. In the case of No Deal, the extent of disruption will, of course, be much worse than with a deal. But even with a deal, leaving the EU’s single market and customs union, with at best a few days notice of the terms on which the UK is leaving, is a recipe for a harder, more costly border and for much confusion and problems as everyone adjusts.

There will be lessons a-plenty here too for Scottish independence in the EU – when the Scotland-England border would become an external border of the EU. The clearest lesson for now is that any deal on future rUK-Scotland relations should be fully sorted out months ahead of when new harder borders will come into play; waiting till a week or a day before is a recipe for chaos. Or, to put it more simply, the lesson from the Brexiteers is clear: don’t do it our way.