The National:

DURING the years of Brexit debate and negotiations following the EU referendum, one question in particular often arose: Would people notice Brexit, once done, in their everyday lives?

People directly affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU would certainly notice – not least EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their families living in Scotland and the UK. But how would the thousands of individual consequences of Brexit manifest in all of our lives?

Many of those consequences might end up being associated with global events or the state of the economy. The regrettable arrival of the coronavirus pandemic added another dimension. Could the impacts of Brexit now be subsumed or even masked by the pandemic instead?

With the progressive lifting of coronavirus restrictions this spring and summer, much of our economic and social activity has resumed. The pandemic’s masking of Brexit is also lifting, and more of the realities of the post-Brexit EU-UK relationship are becoming easier to see.

Our nascent economic recovery is made more fragile by the thin nature of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which offers only a minimal partnership on trade and other areas compared to EU membership.

Despite steady consumer demand, high-profile businesses are unable to provide their usual products and services. For restaurants, McDonald’s has run of milkshakes and Nando’s is low on chicken. For supermarkets, collections of items are in low supply or out of stock.

READ MORE: Food shortages are due to Brexit not Covid pandemic, industry says

Both Brexit and the pandemic have contributed to these circumstances. However, as comments from industry and trade bodies make clear, Brexit is the core driver of disruption – and the pandemic is an aggravator.

The two factors are of different natures. The pandemic is an acute, temporary period. Brexit is a permanent, structural transformation. Each has had its own distinct impact on our society – but Brexit is changing the nature of our politics, economy and institutions.

Disruption of supplies to restaurants and retailers will have different causes, but Brexit is responsible for two of the most important ones.

The first is the barriers to trade that now exist between the EU and the UK. Most goods can pass tariff-free and quota-free, but that trade now involves bureaucracy. Customs paperwork is needed, even if no tariffs apply. Relevant standards and specifications must also be met – and the UK Government’s direction of travel is to diverge, not converge.

The other is the reduction in current and future EU workers in the UK, due to leaving the single market and no longer being part of the free movement of people. For decades, EU citizens have filled, and created, jobs across all sectors of the economy in Scotland and the UK. Under the Brexit deal, their opportunities here are now reduced or eliminated.

Many EU citizens left the UK before or at the end of the Brexit transition last December. Without settled or pre-settled status, they now need a visa to live or work in the UK. The number of new arrivals is much lower. Some do not qualify for a visa, and others decide to pursue options within the EU.

The economic disruption that we are experiencing is in large part driven by this increase in trade barriers and this decrease in labour. The UK’s present and acute shortage of lorry drivers in the UK, many of whom would have normally been EU citizens, is a case in point.

This disruption – reduced stock for retailers, reduced menus for restaurants, shorter hours and even temporary closures – may well persist for some time. Prices may also increase as a result. Attention has focused on major retailers and chains, but independent businesses can be impacted as well. The Christmas spending period could also be affected.

As with the entire Brexit process, these consequences derive from the decisions of the UK Government and Parliament. Exiting the single market, a minimal Brexit deal, a restrictive immigration policy – these are all choices. Choices in the service of Eurosceptic populism over the best interests of the public.

The damage which we are sustaining as a result is therefore intentional. With Westminster politics in that mentality, it is impossible to say when, or if, a change towards a closer relationship with the EU and a more open immigration policy might emerge.

Anthony Salamone is managing director of European Merchants, the political analysis firm in Edinburgh