THE EU Withdrawal Agreement to chart the UK’s departure might more accurately be called the Withdrawal Disagreement, so far as London is concerned.

It is being criticised from both sides, and the chances of it passing through the House of Commons seem remote at this stage. This adds grist to the political mill, but it is doing nothing for businesses, large and small, and the people that work in them who want certainty about their future.

As with years of CAP reform, what has been agreed is based on a series of fudges. No-one really understands what has been agreed, in that they cannot explain how the document would work in practice. The devil lies in the detail of that fudge, but that could be worked through during the transition period, if it gets that far.

However, getting it through parliament, in the face of opposition within the Conservative party, is probably a challenge too far. What will happen then, really is uncharted territory. The safe money would be on the government seeking an extension of the Brexit date, but a general election or a second referendum are also possible.

What is unlikely, despite the rhetoric around it, is a ‘no deal’ departure, since there would not be the majority needed in parliament to get this agreed.

People should have no illusions about what the EU is saying when it warns that it will not renegotiate.

It may do so over some of the detail, but the wagons have been circled to protect Fortress Europe against threats to the single market. There is no question that the vast majority of officials and member states regret that the UK is leaving the EU; they genuinely admire the UK’s contribution, not least in creating the single market.

However it was the UK decision to go and the others do not want that to change how they operate.

If there is pain from the UK’s departure, because what has been agreed cannot be delivered, the EU will provide the funds to protect member states from the consequences. Pro-Brexit politicians have long argued that the

EU-27 cannot afford to do without the UK, but that is not the case.

If and when Westminster rejects the Withdrawal Agreement the ball will be firmly in London’s court. The EU-27 is now onto other things, not least the big tidying up exercise before the present Commission and European parliament’s terms end next year.

Agriculture is a prime example of the fudge in this agreement, in that the document makes contradictory statements. It pledges the UK and EU-27 to a future relationship based on no tariffs.

It talks about ‘as close as possible’ a trading arrangement and ‘frictionless’ trade, but at the same time, makes clear that the UK will not have to follow the same rules.

This would give the UK a status enjoyed by no other developed country. However, while that might be easy to say, it is hard to see farmers in the EU ever accepting that the UK would have tariff free access without meeting the same rules.

That option lacks logic, as would become clear if the deal ever gets to the point where the devil in that detail surfaces. It also suggests that the UK will be able to do global trade deals, but it is difficult to see how it could import food while still having tariffs free access to the EU-27. Perhaps if people actually believed the document would go through there would be more questions about these conflicting conclusions.

One bizarre thing in the Brexit debate is the attention the media gives to claims from Donald Trump that the US thinks this is a ‘bad deal’, despite it being none of his business. He says that if the UK signs up to the Withdrawal Agreement this could scupper a trade deal with the United States.

The government is desperate to secure such a deal, despite the untrustworthy record of the Trump administration over trade, and despite evidence it would do little for the UK economy.

In agriculture, there is no apparent upside from a US trade deal. It is interested in exporting not importing; it would demand, as the price of a trade deal, concessions on import standards that could deny the UK access to the more lucrative EU-27 market. Like much else around Brexit, a US trade deal is more about politics than economics.