'Tell him, if e'er again he keep

As muckle gear as buy a sheep-

O, bid him never tie them mair,

Wi' wicked strings o' hemp or hair!'

Robert Burns must have known sheep when he wrote the 'Death and dying words of poor Mailie' – his pet yowe – and it's coming up fast to that time of year when there will, hopefully, be more fun in lambing than angst and fighting against the elements.

This topical poem – especially given the Bard's birthday this weekend – could yet be prophetic for the UK's sheep industry, depending on what the final outcome of Brexit will be. A 'No Deal' will be particularly catastrophic for the sheep industry, which would be decimated by a reduction in sheepmeat exports brought on by export tariffs.

It is illuminating that in our simple poll from one week ago, more than half of all respondents said they thought a second vote (53%) was most likely. This is telling, as it was widely recognised at the time that a large number of farmers had voted 'Leave' in the Brexit referendum. This poll more than hints that many may be now having second thoughts, given the complex, costly and damaging nature of our 'divorce' from the rest of the European Union.

It is also remarkable that almost a third of respondents said they expected a 'No deal' scenario to emerge and that fewer than 5% expected the 'Current deal' to make any headway.

'While Europe's eye is fixed on mighty things' (Burns' 'The rights of women') it seems that the eyes of Britain, which declared 'aye' to leave, are now fixedly staring down the twin barrels of a loaded gun – with one barrel marked 'Deal' and the other 'No Deal' – which, if fired, will result in nothing good for anyone except the 'Fate of empires and the fall of kings' ...

It is hard to see a sensible outcome to this, especially in the short term and those 'wicked strings o' hemp and hair' are just about as good a metaphor for the red tape that bedevils the industry as you will get. The anecdotal evidence is that many voted to leave because the EU regulatory processes and the convoluted audit trails, were becoming ever more draconian.

There is certainly a feeling and acknowledgement now that while the EU might have been loading the gun on this, the UK was certainly firing the shots. There is little evidence to suggest that this will change for agriculture in any way once the good ship Great Britain become afloat in its own sea of dependence.

We can only hope that the final twist from poor Mailie's elegy does not come to pass for the sheep industry as a whole:

This said, poor Mailie turn'd her heid,

And clos'd her een amang the deid!