THE EUROPEAN Commission has accepted that the UK is not going to seek a delay to the Brexit transition period that ends in December.

That is a small victory in a long battle. It will hopefully prove positive in driving on a process stuck in the slow lane. That is partly down to coronavirus, but the talks are also a victim of the Commission's default position of delay, in the hope that this allows time for politics to be played out to deliver an agreed position.

All along in this process the UK has been wary of delay, but it should not see this as a great victory. It may well focus minds and deny officials the long EU summer break, but the stakes are even higher than when the process began with the UK's departure from the EU last January.

That break is already apparent in EU trade figures that treat the UK as a third country export and import market. Coronavirus has only increased the pressure on both sides for a deal. The central question no longer has anything to do with politics. It is instead about how two shattered economies could afford a no deal Brexit. This has been underlined by every UK business lobby organisation. As growth falters and unemployment soars, there must be wise voices in Westminster stressing that compromise is not a definition of political failure.

There are still some concerned about the 'purity' of Brexit, but the big focus now is on finding ways to rebuild the UK economy. Thanks to its reliance on retailing and the services sector, it is on course to suffer worse than other developed economies from the coronavirus fallout. That is a grim prospect, given this week's unemployment figures.

The government needs to be reminded as frequently as possible that farming and food are great, robust indigenous industries capable of delivering jobs and growth. Its approach instead seems to be focussed on creating a retail boom around people spending money they cannot afford on things they do not need. This has long been a fault line with successive UK governments. Coronavirus needs to be an opportunity to look again at the sectors that can build a robust economy. Allowing agriculture to be trampled by cheap imports to secure trade deals outside the EU is not going to help that refocussing process.

The pressure is on for both sides to negotiate with a greater focus. The EU has accepted that there will be no reversal of the Brexit decision. This was probably its plan in pressing for a delay to the transition period, hoping economic pressure after coronavirus would make the UK think again. However the Brexit ship has sailed and that is a reality not going to change.

In an article for The Scottish Farmer, the trade minister, Liz Truss, sought to play up the advantages of a trade deal with the US. She talked about cheaper inputs if the UK is free of EU rules and of lamb being sold on the shelves of New York supermarkets. However the reality is that the threat to Scottish agriculture from cheaper imports dwarfs potentially cheaper inputs and exports of some niche products. That is a message the government does not want to get. Nor does it want to listen to its own economists that stress the limited economic impact of a trade deal with the US.

It cannot escape the reality that the EU-27 is our closest, most profitable and, languages apart, the market with which we have the best fit, thanks to our high standards in every area, including labour laws. The government economic plan should have as its priority the absolute need to secure a good trade deal with the EU. That is the outcome that will do most to drive economic recovery and business confidence.

It must not allow the politics of a trade deal with the US to hide the reality that this would have a limited short term impact on an economy shattered by the coronavirus crisis.

Wise politics are not about table thumping and false promises of jam tomorrow. Brexit should be about the freedom to do the trade deals that deliver best for the UK economy. That begins with the EU-27.

There will be no extension of the transition beyond December 31. But if that leads to a no deal outcome to save political face in London, the looming economic crisis will become an economic disaster that will blight a generation.