POLITICAL EVENTS bring many new words into common use.

Brexit grew out of Grexit, when Greece faced being put out of the euro by the collapse of its economy. This was a situation brought about because the EU fudged the single currency entry rules for political reasons.

The dust has settled on that, but Brexit is the EU's new number one issue, and there are growing signs that patience is fading in both London and Brussels. Recent weeks have brought further new terms into every day use. These include customs partnerships and what has been dubbed a 'max fac' arrangement, or maximum facilitation, to ease customs arrangements if the UK is outside the EU customs union.

It is beginning to look more likely that none of these will prove viable. Arrangements that might satisfy Brussels have been rejected as 'crazy' by Conservative Brexit supporters, led by Boris Johnson. Those that might be acceptable to that group have been rejected by Brussels.

In this debate, Ireland holds the trump card. The government agreed last December, in a bid to fudge an early-hours-of-the-morning deal before the Heads of State summit, that there would be no hard border on the island of Ireland. The message from Brussels is that a customs union is the only way to solve that problem without creating a new border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

This must all leave Theresa May feeling like the line in Hamlet, where Horatio says the 'time is out of joint' and curses the fact that he has been born to set it right. Squeezed between Brussels and the Brexiteers of her own party, Theresa has no room for manoeuvre, with the added twist this week of the Scottish government throwing another spanner into the Westminster Brexit works.

A June deadline for agreement on trade arrangements is looking less likely. If that is to be met the government will have to conjure up something new.

The alternative for Mrs May is to face down her Brexit rebels. They must know that toppling her could trigger an election the party is ill-equipped to fight while so deeply divided. The other option would be a hard Brexit, and it is time now for agriculture to think about what that might mean for the industry. Such an exit would mean leaving the EU with no trade deal in place. That would lead to the application of World Trade Organisation tariffs on goods exported from the UK to the EU-27 and on imports into the UK. To the EU the UK would be another third country, and it could then take a long time to put a trade deal in place. The same would apply to products coming from the EU.

This would cause havoc in export/import driven industries, but for agriculture and food the effects would be more subtle. Indeed it is a gamble that might pay off, if everything fell the right way. However that is a big 'if'. At a stroke a hard Brexit would increase the cost of the 30% of food imported into the UK. This would be a devastating blow to the Irish economy, which is focussed on the UK market.

This is a risk that might make Brussels have second thoughts about a negotiated customs deal. Economic analysts have suggested that with a hard Brexit, farmers could gain, because supply and demand would drive up prices for UK food. That reflects classic economic supply and demand theory, but there is a big difference between that and the real world, particularly when there is a political dimension.

When it comes to Brexit that dimension is huge. It is why the government cannot allow Brexit to be linked to a rise in food prices. Trade is always a double-edged sword, and just as EU27 member states would face WTO tariff rates, so too would other countries. They would see the gap left in the UK market by priced-out EU-27 countries as an opportunity to be exploited.

This is why a hard Brexit would be a gamble for farmers. It could work out well, but it would create the perfect conditions for a flood of cheap imports from every low cost agricultural producer. The government might say it will enforce standards, but the need to avoid rising prices would eclipse that. For farmers the safe option remains some form of customs union deal.