Another day, another Brexit delay. This time, for the third time, it’s the UK opting to delay implementing post-Brexit checks for Northern Ireland. Even for those closest to the action, whose lives and businesses are caught up in this political wrangling, the whole iterant process has long been rather tiresome.

The latest move was confirmed in a written government statement last night and is intended to allow more time for the UK and the EU to reach a sustainable arrangement for Brexit’s thorniest issue.

But in reality, we are no closer to a solution than we were six months ago. The only real change is a smouldering of the once fiery rhetoric. The UK has moved away from threatening to trigger Article 16 and withdraw from the Protocol, while the EU has quietly dropped its legal action for the UK unilaterally extending the grace periods back in March.

The mellowing of tones, combined with the UK’s seeming indefinite timescales attached to the latest delay, has left some food businesses pondering whether a temporary holding pattern could in fact become the permanent status quo. The UK and the EU have reached a stalemate, albeit not an entirely happy or stable one, but most likely one that both sides can live with.

While it’s not the ideal outcome for the many traders who crave the stability of a settled agreement, given where we are, the ongoing extension dance is perhaps not the worst option. Not great, but not catastrophe. A bit like Brexit at large. 

Then there’s the start of checks on goods arriving in Great Britain from the EU. Here, just like in Northern Ireland, those on the ground are far from ready for their start. Ports aren’t ready, vets aren’t ready, businesses aren’t ready. Even if everything were ready, disruption is inevitable. Supermarkets are already struggling with shortages as it is due to the labour crisis, never mind putting a trade border along half their supply chains.

It raises the question: why introduce checks, when you could just…not? The EU won’t complain, as its exporters will continue to get border-free access to the UK. The supermarkets won’t complain, as the threat of a big new strain on their supply chains will be removed. British exporters may be unhappy that they are at the sharp end of an asymmetric trade border, but, in reality, that’s probably a manageable concern.

At a holistic level, yes, it’s probably slightly silly to keep delaying checks, placing yourself at a disadvantage to the EU through an asymmetric trade border that burdens GB exporters more than importers.

However, on a case-by-case basis, taking each deadline as it comes, the argument for introduction appears weaker than the argument for delay. Checks will hurt businesses, create empty shelves, drive negative headlines. If Downing Street maintains Brexit is over, why risk it? It’s a game-theory conundrum in which on balance, delay could forever be the way.