IT says much about the diabolical lack of progress by the UK Government on Brexit negotiations that the Confederation of British Industry has united again with the Trades Union Congress to plead for some “pace and urgency” to be injected into the discussions.

The CBI and TUC are usually not, to put it mildly, the most natural of bedfellows. There has been no shortage of tension and sparring between the employers’ organisation and the UK’s trade unions over the years and decades, but the pair have found plenty of common ground over Brexit.

These are far-from-normal times in the UK, which finds itself in disarray after a Brexit vote fuelled to a significant extent by xenophobia and intolerance and by the opposition of some people to immigration. UK growth has ground to a near-halt as uncertainty over Brexit has compounded the sad and sorry drag of Tory austerity. Businesses have reined in investment and households have become even more wary about spending.

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Global manufacturers Siemens, Airbus and BMW, all major employers in the UK, have been among those to express fears over the impact of a disorderly Brexit in recent days.

For his part, Sir Charlie Mayfield, the chairman of department store group and Waitrose supermarket chain owner John Lewis, this week warned that a “no-deal” Brexit would be “pretty much unthinkable”.

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Yet some of the Brexiters in the Conservative Cabinet continue to seem unperturbed by the notion or danger of a no-deal exit from the European Union, in spite of the frightening consequences for trade and immigration. It is also still surprising, even amid this utter Brexit shambles, to hear reports that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was very dismissive of businesses’ concerns over Brexit. Especially given that the Conservatives have, certainly until now, been putting it about that they are the party of business.

More than two years on from the UK electorate’s fateful vote to leave the EU, there seems to be a lot less triumphalism from the arch-Brexiters. Their quietness speaks volumes, and their lack of success in turning their previous patriotic, rambunctious and vacuous talk into anything of substance, while inevitable, is nevertheless a sorry little state of affairs.

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Given this backdrop, it is therefore not really surprising at all that, ahead of this week’s European Council meeting, CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn and TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady united to issue an “unprecedented joint statement” urging faster progress on Brexit negotiations.

The director-general of BusinessEurope, Markus Beyrer, and general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation, Luca Visentini, also put their names to the statement. The CBI noted the four organisations, which together represent 45 million workers and 20 million employers across Europe, had met for the first time in London on June 15 to discuss Brexit.

They urged politicians to “put economic interests and people’s jobs, rights and livelihoods first”. This would surely seem to be the only natural thing to do. However, it appears to be about as far from the instinct of the Brexiters as you could get. They so often seem to want to put empty patriotic rhetoric and posturing first.

The TUC, CBI, ETUC and BusinessEurope declared this week: “We are calling on the UK Government and the EU to inject pace and urgency in the negotiations, bringing about measurable progress, in particular a backstop arrangement to avoid a hard border in Ireland. Decisions will be needed in June and October to finalise the withdrawal agreement and the transitional arrangement, and put economic interests and people’s jobs, rights and livelihoods first.”

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They added: “The UK Government and the EU will need to agree on all aspects of regulatory alignment, which is of the utmost importance, without jeopardising the integrity of the single market. This must involve preserving value chains and avoiding non-tariff barriers to trade.”

The four organisations also highlighted the need for “frictionless trade in goods and services, and a mechanism for agreeing a mutually acceptable level playing field for workers’ rights”. People might think these points are just pure common sense. But common sense seems to have been mostly absent when it comes to the Conservative Government’s approach to Brexit.

Lord Bilimoria, founder and chairman of Cobra Beer, warned last week of the dangers of Brexit to the UK manufacturing sector at the International Business Festival in Liverpool.

The entrepreneur chairs the Manufacturing Commission, the independent, in-depth research arm of the All-Party Parliamentary Manufacturing Group.

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Lord Bilimoria cited research showing one in five UK manufacturing jobs is at risk because of factors created by Brexit.

He called for “a resolution to the threat of Brexit to the customs union and the single market”.

Lord Bilimoria said: “Almost two-thirds of manufacturing companies say they will have to raise prices to offset foreign currency costs. Access to EU citizens affects ordinary workers as well as managers, many of whom are from the EU including chief executives such as Ralf Speth, the German head of JLR [Jaguar Land Rover] … Now there is this great uncertainty with regard to Brexit let alone the issues with leaving the customs union which will affect our frictionless border … Some 2.5 million lorries [a year] pass through Dover. How will we cope if there is any disruption over there?”

Prime Minister Theresa May’s sheer determination to leave the European single market and customs union remains utterly baffling. It is also entirely lamentable.

And, just to make things even worse, the UK Government seems hell-bent on this course at a time of rising global protectionism, including fears over a US-China trade war, a developing situation which makes it more important than ever for the UK to be part of the powerful EU trading bloc.

The business lobby and the trade union movement are entirely right to appeal for urgent damage-limitation on Brexit negotiations as an EU exit looms ever larger. However, that does not take away the big common-sense question: why on earth are we leaving the EU?

The Conservatives seem entirely unmoved by the justified fears of businesses and households over EU exit, and appear to dismiss realities by hiding behind the “will of the people” rhetoric. However, this surely makes it all the more important for sensible voices to push to abandon this Brexit folly completely before it is too late.