IN COMMENTS on food standards the trade minister, Liz Truss, confirms what we already know – that the Trade and Agriculture Commission she set up is a largely pointless organisation.

It lacks any power; it exists solely to advise the minster and can be ignored at will. It is hard to believe any of its members with farming interests at heart really believe it has any prospect of influencing policy towards imported food after Brexit is complete.

Recently, Truss hit out at comments from her Labour opposite number warning that animal welfare standards were at risk in future trade deals. The suggestion was that the government should look again at its rejection of calls for UK food standards to be met by imported food.

Truss was having none of it. She reached for another fig leaf, rejecting the idea, on grounds that the UK did not want to block efforts by developing countries to export their food to the UK.

In making that comment Truss was seeking to counter emotional arguments around animal welfare with another emotional argument about opportunities for small producers in developing countries. But the calls for action on food standards are not about undermining opportunities for these counties. They already have preferential access to the EU under the 'everything but arms ' initiative that has been in place for many years.

This gives these countries tariff free access and presumably the government has no plans to abandon that commitment.

Truss must know this is not what concerns are about. The farming industry and many others fear large countries with poor standards, led by the United States, using post-Brexit trade deals to flood the UK with cheap food.

This would be a one way trade, since there are few matching opportunities for UK agriculture in these countries. There may be opportunities for some specialist food products, but they would not boost Scottish farm incomes.

These concerns go well beyond animal welfare. They include environmental and social standards, hygiene practices and how allowing the UK to become a magnet for cheap food could put any free trade deal for food with the EU-27 at risk.

Truss has been a far from impressive minister in past roles, but she is loyal to the prime minister and Brexit. If the price of making people see Brexit as a success is allowing in cheap food to buy trade deals that is a price she is clearly willing to pay.

MPs at Westminster had a chance to change this via amendments to the Agriculture Bill, but the government made sure these foundered.

The Curry amendment in particular would have given the Trade and Agriculture Commission oversight of all major trade deals. Truss will argue it already has this role, but the crucial difference is that it will not not be heeded. It has no statutory role or powers and no right to ensure MPs acknowledge its advice before voting on trade deals.

At a stroke, the government has moved the Truss Commission from being weak to being completely irrelevant. It is difficult to understand why any farmer organisation would want to sit on a body whose sole role now is as a fig leaf to hide poor decisions.

When the amendments were sunk on Monday evening comments from the former EU farm and trade commissioner, Phil Hogan, came to mind. He suggested British people did not vote for Brexit to have lower food standards.

That, however, is exactly what the government has now ensured they will have – and farm organisations need to question whether they want to be part of that process by remaining on a pointless Commission.

Writing about where we stand on Brexit is difficult, but if rumours are right we are back to fishing being one of the big sticking points, with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, threatening to pull the plug if the UK does not give ground. That makes no sense.

Fishing is an important industry but here and in France it is dwarfed economically by others, including farming. It has become something of a talisman for Brexit supporters, partly because the industry was solidly behind Brexit.

That is understandable, given that the Common Fisheries Policy is even more of a disaster than the CAP. But it cannot become the make or break issue, not least because fishing needs a trade deal to export. Economic logic must prevail.

The government cannot expose agriculture to the risks of cheap imports while at the same time protecting a smaller industry at all costs.