Back in 2017, sales of the George Orwell book 1984 suddenly surged in America.

This, apparently, was in response to the utterings of Kellyanne Conway, adviser to the reality-TV-star-turned-president, Donald Trump, who used the phrase ‘alternative facts’ in an interview.

And we laughed at the Americans, oh how we laughed. Facts are facts – there are no alternative facts. How can Americans fall for this nonsense?

Surely they are intelligent enough to realise that a government official is going on national television and lying to them.

This isn’t a sustainable position. Putting some spin on an unpalatable situation is one thing but blatantly lying when all the evidence is there for everyone to see is something else altogether.

(For the record, Conway’s ‘alternative facts’ statement was in support of the White House insistence that Trump’s inauguration had attracted ‘the largest audience ever’ despite the absolute fact, supported by photographic evidence, that this was a lie.)

And we were confident that it couldn’t happen here.

Spoiler alert: It already has and it is continuing day after day after day.

I refer, of course, to Brexit.

There are now two Brexits existing side by side.

The first is the ‘alternative facts’ of the Orwellian official Brexit, the one of ‘taking back control’, the one of being free to put crowns on pint glasses, the one of sunlit uplands just over the horizon, of the end of freedom of movement so we can have British jobs for British people, the one where the UK bestrides the world stage as an economic colossus, the one where Boris Johnson ‘got Brexit done’.

This is the one the government, backed by a compliant media, would have you believe.

Then there is the real Brexit, the one of trade barriers and increased costs, not enough workers, fruit and veg rotting in the fields, pigs being culled and sent to landfill because we don’t have enough slaughterhouse workers, butchers or lorry drivers.

We have the real Brexit of the hospitality and care sectors chronically understaffed.

The trouble is, most people don’t see this. They might notice prices going up in the supermarkets or the shortage of goods but there is a degree of separation between the cause and the effect.

Now that the effects of the pandemic are starting to unwind, the true reason for our economic chaos is being revealed.

Just ask anyone whose flight from Manchester Airport was cancelled or who was stuck for hours trying to get through airport security.

As the Independent commented: “Plenty of European staff left both the British aviation industry and the UK during the Covid pandemic.

"They have not returned, some no doubt taking up roles in aviation within the EU – where they feel more wanted.

“The other effect is more subtle but arguably even more significant. Far more Europeans worked in hospitality here than in aviation. A large proportion of them also left the UK. And that created a vast array of vacancies.

"Many excellent British aviation professionals, furloughed for many months and uncertain if their jobs would ever return, ‘backfilled’ those roles. They are unlikely to be lured back to a high-stress role with unsocial hours.”

This view was supported by Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary who said: “Pre Brexit you would have had lots of Eastern Europeans doing check-in jobs, handling baggage etc. The labour shortage is a direct result of Brexit – a disaster for the UK economy and is driving inflation.”

But perhaps the most remarkable intervention came last week from senior Tory MP Tobias Ellwood who said: “In a nutshell, all these challenges would disappear if we dare to advance our Brexit model by re-joining the EU single market (the Norway model).

"Leaving this aspect of the EU was not on the ballot paper, nor called for by either the Prime Minister or Nigel Farage during the 2016 referendum. There was, however, much discussion about returning to a ‘common market,’ which is exactly what I propose.”

Of course, this doesn’t sit well with the rest of his Conservative colleagues who perhaps are sticking to the Orwellian view: “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

And we are all paying the price.