AS SOMEONE with a boat, I know the dangers of uncharted waters. The risk is partly from not being sure where you are going, but mainly from not knowing what shallows or hidden rocks are beneath you.

This makes the term a good description of where we are with Brexit. The challenge now, as for any sailor in such a situation, is how to get out of it as quickly as possible without damage. Over Brexit that is a lot easier to say than deliver.

Regardless of how they voted back in 2016, farmers, like everyone else, want some certainty about where we are likely to end up. Sadly that is not going to emerge any time soon. Even if a deal is stitched together at Westminster, the detail of how it will be implemented will take all of the planned two year transition period to agree. On that basis 2021 will, at best, be when we have certainty.

That will be extended if the implementation date for Brexit is extended, which is now a possibility. With European parliament elections due in May and a new European Commission in the autumn, that would bring problems of continuity.

What most farmers would like would be some confirmation that we are not going to end up with a no deal situation. The farming lobby from across the UK has made clear in the strongest possible terms that such an outcome would be disastrous. That is particularly so in Scotland, with its livestock industry committed to exports to the EU-27.

Last week a group of mainly English grain traders wrote an open letter to a newspaper claiming that as farmers they supported leaving the EU and trading on World Trade Organisation tariff terms. These were not however farmers at the sharp end, but traders, and in any event their views ignored the dependence of the livestock sector on exporting to Europe.

Farmers need to beware of people seeking to influence politics by making claims on behalf of an entire industry. The bottom line remains that some sectors could live with no deal, but for the vast majority of farmers, particularly in Scotland, this would be a bad outcome. Farmers need to pay heed to the farming lobby that represents them and has their interests at heart, rather than to anyone connected with politics.

If nothing else events this week have confirmed what a self-serving group many politicians are, given that they are more interested in their own political survival than loyalty to their party or indeed the best interests of the UK economy. A problem with Brexit is that it is a political decision, but the consequences are entirely economic. All along political infighting has trumped economics in the decision making process, and until that changes we will continue drifting in the proverbial uncharted waters.

The inevitable question amongst all these high politics is what can any farmer do to protect their business. The answer is nothing at all, since no-one yet knows what is going to happen. It is little comfort, but on the day after the defeat of the Withdrawal Bill and with a no confidence vote looming, the farmer doing the worst possible job on the farm is probably having a happier time than the prime minister. All anyone can do is guess what the outcomes might be.

A no deal Brexit could see EU-27 products, particularly from Ireland, facing big tariffs to get into the UK market. That might improve the situation for UK suppliers, but it is open to question whether that gain is either practical or sufficient to offset the loss of export markets in the EU-27.

Equally UK global trade deals might create new export opportunities. However many of these are already there via trade deals the EU has in place and which the UK as still an EU member state can exploit. The other side of this coin is that global trade deals will almost certainly see tariffs on imports reduced, meaning farmers could face competition from low cost suppliers.

These are all possibilities, but no-one can know what will happen until we know what shape Brexit will take. That is now further away than this time last week. Against that background all that farmers can do in these uncharted waters is go on doing what they do to the best of their ability, and hope that the old theatrical adage of it 'being alright on the night' holds true.