IT was unedifying, brutal and spawned a thousand metaphors, my favourite being that if Theresa May was in a Test Match, she would be following on, needing 800, not a cloud in the sky with a dressing room revolt and ball tampering scandal (some wag did say, however, that she is also facing one of the weakest bowling attacks in history).

For all the memes, tweets and metaphors making light of the Brexit situation in Parliament, let’s be clear – it is not funny now.

Following the defeat of the Prime Minister’s proposed withdrawal deal, businesses across the region are becoming increasingly frustrated and anxious about the prospect of a no-deal exit, and about the complete lack of central preparations for such an outcome.

This anxiety has been seen in stalling investment, reduced plans for recruitment and a slowdown in the North-East’s international activity.

Our member companies are telling us every day about the costs of uncertainty. One member told us: “My concern about a no-deal position is that our ability to service our international customers would be significantly damaged. I am looking at contingency planning that is now including relocating our warehouse into EU territory.”

Such stories are becoming more common among business in our region and we are already seeing jobs being lost.

The Chamber believes the most responsible course of action is the immediate extension of Article 50. This would afford Government the chance to pause this shambolic handling of Brexit, and decide what is the best route forward for the country. It will also allow Government to properly engage with the practical needs of the business community, a level of engagement that was sorely lacking prior to this vote.

Chamber members are acutely aware of the damaging impact the current level of political uncertainty has had on the North-East economy, but they believe that this will pale in comparison to the consequences of a no-deal scenario. It is preferable that we extend short term uncertainty to avoid a far greater period of economic decline.

Members, both leavers and remainers, have labelled Brexit as a “failure in leadership”, a point demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s shambolic handling of the “meaningful vote”.

Now is the time for real political leadership to break this impasse and to deliver a deal that works for the North-East and its business community.

People’s jobs and livelihoods depend on it and to repeat – it’s not funny anymore.

l Rachel Anderson is the Assistant Director (Policy) at the North-East Chamber of Commerce