NOT ONLY in Scotland but elsewhere in the UK, a lot of MPs must now be wondering if it was a wise decision to vote against the amendment to the Agriculture Bill that would have protected UK food standards.

Those that failed to support this came up with various reasons. The size of the government majority and its ability to get legislation through was cited.

It also got mired up with Brexit, with some suggesting the amendment would have undermined the government's negotiating position. That is an argument that does not stand up to scrutiny, and if MPs fear the government's majority there is little point in them playing any part in Westminster discussions.

This was not an amendment from an MP out to undermine the Conservative party. It came from a solid blue Tory, Neil Parrish, who in his past political career was chair of the European parliament's agriculture committee. What he was suggesting was sensible, fair and logical. It would have protected farmers, the food industry and employment. It would also have helped ensure our access to the EU-27 market if a trade deal is reached.

That the amendment was needed was confirmed when the minister responsible for trade negotiations with the United States, Liz Truss, reportedly suggested the UK would have to accept some of their food standards. That is at least an honest statement of the government's position and promises to the contrary are of little value. If they had been, the government would not have had problems accepting the amendment. The farming lobby needs to ensure that MPs who voted to allow US standards are made to justify that position as often as possible at public gatherings.

In the Brexit debate, sources suggest the government has embarked on a strategy to play it tough. For its own reasons it believes this worked last December to secure the deal now in place – despite that deal being little different to the one negotiated by Theresa May, but with a worse outcome on the Irish border.

The government now believes it can force Brussels will back down. This thinking is coming from Michael Gove, but it is hard to see the evidence to justify it. There is no sense of desperation for a deal on the EU side. It has already factored in the potential consequences of a no deal outcome, and compared to the post-coronavirus economic threat, Brexit is a side issue.

The focus in Brussels is on securing a delay to the December end date for the transition arrangements. The side show to that is avoiding the blame if it all goes wrong. Gove's approach is to push hard now so that if the EU does not accept the UK negotiating agenda the blame can be laid there. However the EU trade negotiations are the responsibility of the trade commissioner and former agriculture commissioner, Phil Hogan. He recently suggested a deal would be possible, hinting that Brussels would give way on some of its red lines key areas if the UK did the same. Go down that road, he suggested, and a deal could be agreed before both sides want to head off on what are likely to be non existent summer holidays this year.

The problem came with where Hogan suggested the UK needed to show flexibility – that was over fisheries and access to British waters. This is the classic approach of someone honed in Irish politics. Look reasonable and set a simple target – all the time knowing your opponent cannot deliver on it. If it comes to the blame game you have boxed your opponent into a corner. You can claim to have been reasonable and generous in making concessions, while they got hung up over a single issue.

As to the need for a deal, that does not change for both sides. However the UK has to remember it is negotiating with an organisation that has pumped €2.4 trillion into a post-coronavirus recovery plan. That includes an additional €24 billion for agriculture and rural development over seven years. That is the price Brussels has paid to maintain European unity. If it has to allow a trade deal with the UK to fail and then compensate those countries affected that will be small beer in comparison.

An added twist is that failure to accept that sensible Agriculture Bill amendment has weakened the UK case that it should have free access to the EU-27 on the basis of common standards.