BORIS JOHNSON, in breaks from trying to tackle the coronavirus crisis, has probably already written his speech to 'celebrate' his historic trade deal with the EU. This will be made in the early hours of the morning after the planned summit of EU leaders – which no longer includes the UK – that is pencilled in for mid-October.

This will be his chance to reawaken some of the Brexit fervour that swept him to power in December. But in reality the deal will be far removed from the 'oven-ready' one he claimed was on the table then.

There is still much political grandstanding going on, but what we are going through is a fairly typical Brussels negotiating session. This is no different to the brinkmanship over past issues as diverse as climate change and CAP reform. Increasingly the discussions are behind closed door, with leaks from both sides minimised. This is because leaks are never accidental but delivered with a purpose in mind.

Now the tenor of the debate has changed. The negotiators are serious about doing a deal and to achieve that they need to leave politics outside the door. Behind those doors sacred cows, in terms of red lines, will be subtly killed off as pragmatism and economic reality move into the driving seat.

Despite his blunder this week about the UK forging ahead with the Internal Market Bill to break the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU-27, Michael Gove was doubtless tight-lipped behind the mask he wore for the pre-talks photograph. He has reportedly admitted privately that with the UK economy in free-fall it is staring into an abyss if it leaves the EU without a deal. We are now in the concession phase of the negotiation; this will be followed by a 'senior diplomats only' phase to pave the way for a deal. Words will be agreed to allow both sides to claim they have protected key principles. With job losses running in the tens of thousands a week and coronavirus getting worse there will be little political appetite for criticising whatever deal emerges.

Like all things related to Brexit this could be hopelessly wrong. From when this is written to you reading it the talks could collapse and put the no deal option, which would be disastrous for agriculture, back on the table. That however looks unlikely and the mood now seems to reflect the mutual need for a deal. Despite bluster the UK has to know it cannot have a Canada-style deal with the mutual recognition of many standards, including qualifications, that it wants. Equally the EU must recognise that Brexit is a reality and that it must give the UK the freedom it wants to be different. The challenge now is to find a form of words that allows both sides to claim victory.

Back in May, many farmers were angry when Westminster MPs failed to support an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that would have protected farming from cheap imports. The amendment came from former MEP turned Westminster Conservative, Neil Parish. It would have brought legislation to ensure imported food meets UK standards. Those who voted against this claimed they had a good reason for doing so, based around speeding the passage of the Bill. Now they have been given a chance to make amends.

This comes via the House of Lords scrutiny of the Bill and would give some teeth to the largely pointless Trade and Agriculture Commission. The amendment came from Lord Curry, who as David Curry was a past chairman of the NFU Mutual insurance company. Passed with a majority of over 100, his amendment would give the Commission the right to scrutinise all trade deals and report to parliament on their potential impact on food and farming. MPs would then vote on the deals with the benefit of having the impact assessment of the Commission.

This is a good concept and it would make up for the tactics the government used to sink the Parish amendment. The government is desperate to do trade deals and to keep food prices low on supermarket shelves. But it cannot be allowed to trash UK standards for imports, while wrapping British farmers in green tape. The Curry amendment will be voted on in the House of Commons in October. MPs will then have a chance to make amends for failing farmers over the Parish amendment. If they fail to do so again they cannot expect to be easily forgiven