NO amount of “dead cats” or blaming the French can hide the drastic state of affairs in the UK post-Brexit.

While all eyes at Westminster are on the unedifying spectacle of Sunak and Truss battling it out for PM pole position, it was gridlock at Dover for holiday makers trying to escape old Blighty. The UK chemical industry reported a £2 billion hit due to post-Brexit red tape, and growth in overseas sales was described as “effectively stagnant” by the British Chambers of Commerce.

The BCC’s new survey of exporters reveals a trinity of woes – including supply chain issues, rising prices and, of course, Brexit bureaucracy – and it’s the smaller manufacturing exporters that are being hit hardest.

Putting the personal in the tangled, complicated and confusing red tape and increased costs for trade, a well-known British wine wholesaler announced this week that he is quitting “Brexitland” to relocate his business to France in order to remove these barriers to success and plug a £150,000 Brexit hole in his revenue. I doubt he’ll be the last to pack up his business bags and head to Europe.

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But guess what? It doesn’t have to be like this. Across the Irish Sea, it’s a very different story when it comes to exports. The Republic’s trade with the rest of the world hit a record €842bn, with exports making up €421bn of that total despite Brexit, Covid and wider global issues, according to the Government’s Trade and Investment Report for 2021.

The Irish Minister for Trade Promotion, Robert Troy, put this success down to attracting investment and trade goods internationally, creating “resilience” in the face of worldwide uncertainty and a healthy pot available for spending on services and infrastructure.

The European Union remains Ireland’s largest export market for goods at around 37%, with the US a close second on 33%. The UK sits at 10%, which is all the more remarkable given this market topped 55% when the Irish first joined the EEC 50 years ago – quite a change in trading relations, and it highlights the benefits of remaining in the single market and customs union.

Imagine a country going it alone and changing its dependency on a less than accommodating or reliable neighbour to become more resilient internationally. Because that is what Ireland has done. By forging its own path and a good dose of pragmatic preparation in the face of the dangers to their economy from a Brexit forced upon them, they have been the ones to “take back control” with a reported 378% increase in freight traffic to and from Europe from the Rosslare port this year and 44 ports now operating direct ferry routes to the continent, up from 12 in 2020.

BUT woe betide us Scots for daring to think independence might create a better scenario for our economy and trading future! How can we go it alone when our main trading partner is England, the naysayers cry? Project Fear need only look to our Irish neighbours to see that for those nations that wrench themselves free of Westminster control, the future is far brighter and better.

But it’s all cloth ears and blinkers. Just this week, the new CBI boss, Brian McBride, was warning the Scottish Government to steer clear of any referendum talk and focus on a post-Covid recovery for the economy.

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In other words, mitigate, mitigate, mitigate, which, in the 22 years of devolution, we have done quite a lot of in order to pursue a better life for all Scots while also getting on “with the day job”. McBride must have missed the National Strategy for Economic Transformation, with its focus on entrepreneurialism and business support. And he must have missed the fact that the Westminster Government is utterly beholden to its Brexit ideology and staying in power to the detriment of actually governing the country or economy properly, and for the good of its citizens.

Because with the UK Treasury in limbo and a potential future PM focused on cutting tax or ignoring the energy crisis despite the rise in bills forecast to hit the £3300 to £4000 mark this October pushing the annual inflation rate well into double figures, the IMF’s predictions of the UK economy as the slowest-growing G7 nation will become just another disaster in a long line of shambolic bad decisions made by the Tory party’s 12 years in power.

Recovery and resilience in this post-Covid, post-Brexit, globally tense context is tied to independence and sovereignty. The Republic of Ireland’s success is a shining example of how to do it differently and better as part of a union of equals in Europe and with international standing and respect, the very antithesis of Brexit Britain.

For Scotland the choice remains the same. Whoever is steering the Brexit Titanic – Truss, Sunak or indeed Starmer – launch the lifeboats and head for dry ground for a wealthier, happier and fairer future.