THE SIX Nations begins this weekend and what we saw at Westminster this week had parallels to rugby – the Brexit ball was kicked deep into touch while a weak team facing tough opponents sought time to debate what to do to get their game back on track.

Even more worrying was that the team captain, in the shape of the Prime Minister, seemed to regard this as a success. Sticking with the rugby metaphor it was perhaps a marginally better outcome than the others available, in the shape of the various amendments, but it did not alter the arithmetic of the game.

Delusion seems to the word of the day at Westminster. Both the government and the Labour party failed to secure the outcomes they wanted because of dissent on both the front and back benches.

The government is choosing to ignore, for now, a vote by politicians that made clear 'no deal' should not be the outcome of the Brexit process. It is then going to Brussels, knowing that the Withdrawal Agreement will not be re-opened by EU heads of state. Instead the debate will focus on the non-binding political wish list attached to what was agreed in Brussels. As a result we have a prime minister ignoring a non-binding vote in the Commons on 'no deal' going to Brussels to discuss a non-binding political document separate to the deal she says she will renegotiate.

This might seem a long way from agriculture, but until we find a way out of the maze Brexit has become, everything else is akin to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Farmers and the farming lobby know exactly what they want. They want a sound business relationship with the EU-27, be that via a trade deal, membership of the EU or membership of the European Economic Area.

When many farmers voted to leave the EU they wanted to escape regulations. They did not want to end up with their future dictated by the extreme Brexiteers of the Conservative party and a prime minister whose main goal now is to prevent her party from splitting.

This happened over the Corn Laws in the 1870s. That was about cheaper grain imports from Europe and was a battle between those who wanted cheaper food for the majority and rich landlords who wanted high grain prices maintained. There any many parallels with that today and even if a fudge is stitched together the rift in the Conservative party will not be healed.

Labour are little better, with a massive split between the left and the centre, and Jeremy Corbyn failed to land a killer blow, or indeed any blow, while his nemesis was on the ropes. If the government is to come back with a 'deal' from Brussels that can get through Westminster, this will demand a mix of delusion and faith. The delusion will be that anything has changed over the backstop, when that will not be the case. The faith will be that things can improve after the UK leaves the EU on the basis of the Withdrawal Bill, with two years to negotiate a relationship that works.

The questions the Brexiteers of the Tory party need to ask themselves is whether they really believe the EU can be pushed to ignore its principles. This is what they will not do for the sake of the economy, yet they expect 27 member states of the EU to overturn their own principles.

If the result, come March 29, is the chaos of a 'no deal' outcome they will have brought that on the UK because of a refusal to accept the EU is not bluffing. If it costs the EU money to maintain its principles it will find it. If there is a deal, the prime minister will have to convince her party it is meaningful.

Even tougher will be convincing the DUP, when one of its MP's reaction to the threat of food shortages was that people could go 'to the chippy'. That is now the level of debate by those holding the economy to ransom over Brexit.

The only certainty farmers, or anyone else in business has, is that we are in the endgame of this stage of the negotiation. What the outcome will be is hard to guess – but my hunch would be that we will remain in some form of customs union with the EU-27 and give them even more money that the £39 billion divorce deal already done.