For most of the past few months, it’s seemed the Brexit stalemate has been simple posturing.
They talk tough on fish, we talk tough on state aid, eventually we get down to doing a deal.
As chief negotiator David Frost put it at the weekend, our stance has mainly been to let them know we’ll “not blink” in the standoff.
That’s all fine and to be expected in such important negotiations.
But if we’re to make our posturing look realistic, we have to look like we really are prepared to waltz out without a deal. That we’ve got everything set up to go it alone come the end of December.
But talk to any companies relying on trade and you very quickly see we’re not ready at all.
Our ports are nowhere near prepared to deal with the checks and paperwork required for imports and exports.
Our smaller businesses are so skint from the pandemic that they haven’t been able to rebuild their stockpiles to cope with Brexit delays.
Our pharmaceuticals firms are struggling to build up medicine supplies due to Covid.
Looking at all that, Michel Barnier could have been forgiven for thinking we were bluffing.
Sadly, we’re not. The Brexit purists are in charge. Boris Johnson today says no-deal is a “good outcome” for Britain.
So, bar a miracle before the 15 October talks deadline, we must put our faith in Johnson’s team to plan and implement the most complex changes to our trade relations for a generation.
Little wonder the FTSE 100 trades at a discount to the rest of the world.