Brexit trade dealings are akin to booking a flight with a budget airline.

What looks a good deal fades as the extras begin to mount up. The latest to frustrate UK business is a charge for customs checks on EU food imports. This ranges from a barely worth the collection paperwork, £10 for 'low risk' goods to £145 for mixed consignments. This is a charge that will be passed on to consumers via higher prices. Given that the UK is the EU's number one destination for food exports these costs will, like those budget airline extras, add up to a significant amount.

It has taken the UK years to get its customs regime for EU imports in place, in contrast to the EU that managed to impose it in months. It will be another example of trade with our biggest market continuing, not because of anything the government does but because traders have the common sense and commitment to find ways to make business work.

It makes a further mockery of the Boris Johnson claim about a trade deal being 'oven ready' and the simplest in history. In reality it has turned out to be complex, costly and ultimately unnecessary. It could have been avoided completely had the UK followed other countries by joining the European Economic Area (EEA).

This would have retained tariff free trade in return for continuing to meet EU food safety standards. Back in the Johnson era this was ruled out by Brexit purists, and businesses have paid the price for their political dogma.

Trade checks fly in the face of the policies the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says will create economic growth. Brexit as a stand alone concept was unique, in that it went in the opposite direction to the rest of the world. The UK walked away from the world's biggest agriculture and food trading bloc and did so knowing that the best option for business would have been to join countries like Switzerland and Norway in the EEA.

That would have avoided all the frustration businesses have had. Red tape has damaged business rather than driven the growth Brexit advocates promised. Part of that is down to Covid, the Russia/Ukraine conflict and inflation, but walking away from the safety net option of the EEA was always a risky option.

The Labour Party, which if polls are right will form the next government, has always been sceptical about Brexit. However that does not mean it will seek to bring the UK back into the EU. That is a decision at least a generation away.

Asked recently about the prospects of that happening Labour's former EU commissioner, Peter Mandelson, delivered the curt response, 'you must be joking'. This is not something the party will consider, because its past supporters in the Red Wall seats backed Johnson to 'get Brexit done'.

If Labour wins these seats back it will not risk alienating those voters. What it might do however is look again at joining the European Economic Area. This was advocated by Labour when the Brexit deal was being worked out and it is less purist than some Conservatives about following EU rules.

This is more about politics than practicalities, in that we already follow the same rules as the EU. These were rolled over after Brexit and there is no great appetite for change. EU rules are accepted as a benchmark standard for exporting; consumers did not vote Brexit to lower UK standards; the EU is our closest, biggest and highest value export market for food. The overarching reality is that both the UK and EU are committed to tackling climate change and net zero, and these are the drivers of food policy and food standards. If both have the same destination, both will automatically have similar rules.

Any decision to join the EEA would be economic and would get around a lot of problems, including customs fees for food imports and all the trade problems around Northern Ireland. Labour do not have the same Brexit purity concerns and the party is not embarrassed about the damp squib leaving the EU for a brighter future turned out to be.

On that basis it has to be a reasonable bet that if Labour forms the next government, membership of the EEA, bringing easier travel and trade arrangements, might emerge during its five year term.