I'VE deliberately avoided talking about Brexit over recent weeks, but it’s probably time to have a quick review.

Like many people, I held my breath as the prospect of leaving the EU without any kind of free trade deal look increasingly likely so I suppose we should all be at least a little bit grateful for the somewhat thin deal that was finally struck.

Happy(ish) days then that we now have a zero tariff, zero quota deal on goods.

I’ve no desire to go over the old for-and-against arguments so let’s deal with reality, shall we.

In the first instance, the new relationship with the 27 countries of the EU came into effect at 11pm on December 31 and because the deal only relates to goods, the 80 per cent of the UK economy that is based on services isn’t covered.

Take, for example, the financial services sector which is a massive contributor to the UK economy.

London, and to a lesser extent Manchester and Edinburgh, were major players thanks to ‘passporting’, the process whereby any British-based financial institution could sell their products and services into the rest of the EU without the need to obtain a licence, get regulatory approval, or set up local subsidiaries to do so.

Passporting ended on December 31 and nothing has been put in place.

Add to this the fact that more than 4.6 million people – 13 per cent of the workforce – are employed in professional and business services, which encompasses HR, recruitment, advertising, legal services, market research, accountancy, audit, architecture, engineering, PR and management consulting.

Nothing in the Brexit deal covers these sectors either, immediately placing barriers to trade that may or may not be overcome.

What about lawyers wishing to work across Europe? Here’s what the government’s website has to say: “After Brexit, UK nationals, and EU nationals with UK qualifications, will no longer be able to rely on EU law on the recognition of professional qualifications. For recognition decisions that will be made post-Brexit, for both permanent establishment and temporary work purposes, UK nationals should check the host country’s policies.”

The reality is UK-qualified lawyers may or may not have their qualifications recognised by the EU with the decision left to individual EU countries.

I could go on. But you get my drift. I fully realise there aren’t that many people in Penketh or Orford or even leafy Stockton Heath involved in cross-border financial services or providing legal advice in France or Germany so you may think this has nothing to do with you. Maybe you think it was a price worth paying for your ‘sovereignty’ but the fact remains those people and their companies contribute a significant amount to the national wealth.

If they suffer, we all suffer. There’s less money in the national pot and if history is anything to go by, the traditional Tory method of dealing with recession is…austerity.

Of course, it may be that, as Boris Johnson states on a regular basis, we will ‘prosper mightily’.

Many of the effects of Brexit will only become apparent in the coming weeks and months, unless you happen to live anywhere near Appleton Thorn. Those lucky people have already got your sunlit uplands and your very own Brexit bonus – a 24 hours a day, seven days a week government ‘inland border facility’ that will see up to 600 extra lorry movements a day on your roads as lorry drivers get customs clearance.

Of course, the other big story of recent weeks has been the roll-out of not one but two vaccines in the fight against coronavirus.

I know at least a couple of people who have had their jabs at the Orford Jubilee Neighbourhood Hub and I’m really happy for them.

My fervent wish is that the vaccination programme picks up pace and rapidly gets down to those in the fifth level of vulnerability and then maybe I’ll get my two weeks in the Spanish sun after all.