IT WAS good to see the EU farm commissioner, Phil Hogan, back in Scotland. 

Like Ray MacSharry and Franz Fischler, Hogan is very much a farmer’s farm commissioner. He understands the industry and is blunt delivering the message. He is not known for political correctness – hence his recent controversial suggestion that Theresa May was making a better argument for the UK remaining in the EU than leaving.

I enjoyed the interview with Hogan in The Scottish Farmer, and in it he left no-one in any doubt about his take home message. 

That was that the UK could solve all the problems of market access and the Irish border by staying in the single market and/or customs union.

This would make it the same as countries like Norway and Switzerland that are in the European Economic Area (EEA) but not the EU. 

This is what most people thought we would end up with at the time of the EU referendum, but the government now believes the grass is greener beyond the EEA fence. It wants to gamble on new trade deals, while still expecting to be a special case over access to the EU-27.

This is all the stuff of heady politics, but the argument that Hogan stuck to was why the UK would choose to be different to every other country in Europe. That is a fair point, since while it is easy to see the many reasons why remaining in a customs union with the EU-27 would make life easier, the disadvantages are less easily understood. 

For the eurosceptics in the Conservative party, who are now driving policy, this is a matter of principle – a wish to be free of everything to do with the EU. They have every right to that view, but principles will not put bread on the table.

We can see the fallout from concerns about what will happen to markets after Brexit, with jobs lost this week at Jaguar/Land Rover – one of the high tech businesses the government needs to do well after Brexit. 

Whether a business is an industrial giant or a family farm, what they want is certainty and they are not getting that from politicians in London. 

Ministers have already rubbed out many of the Brexit red line issues that are conditions of being in a customs union with the EU-27. Having done that they should explain how their vision for the future is better. 

That is the point Phil Hogan was making in his interview with The Scottish Farmer and it is a question that has not been answered.

Many who voted 'Leave' back in June, 2016, now say they did so in expectation that the UK would remain in a customs union with the EU.

They must now feel truly let down by politicians in London. 

Strip away the politics and it is hard to see how key issues can be tackled outside a customs union. 

Top of that list is an Irish border with no controls. If the UK is outside the customs union, the EU will have to protect its trade borders with the UK.

The Irish government will block any Brexit deal that would allow that to happen. The same applies at a more practical level to all trade with the EU-27, in both directions, from milk to Mercedes. 

What people deserve from politicians is a list of the advantages of being in and outside a customs union, based on practical realities rather than political dreams.

Their main playing card in wanting to quit the customs union is that it will allow the UK to make its own trade deals around the world. 

In doing so it has to offset the reality of offering a market of 60m consumers against the EU with a population of 500m. The way around that is to be more generous than the EU over market access without tariffs, which is a danger for farmers. 

The US is one of the target markets for the UK and a sign of its protectionist policies is that the Trump administration wants to impose punitive duties on Spanish olives, because it believes EU aid to young farmers is trade distorting.

That is the sort of challenge that lies ahead. It is why Hogan questioned why the UK wants to leave the customs union and the security of Fortress Europe, with numbers giving it power that the UK may envy in trade disputes with its new trade partners.