THE BIG question for most observers over Brexit is whether Boris Johnson is bluffing or playing a dangerous tactical game. His claim, over the head of his negotiator Michael Gove, that trade talks with the EU are over looks dangerously akin to someone with a pair of fives bluffing in poker, still convinced they have a hand that can win.

Cut and thrust in any negotiation is to be expected. But if Johnson is serious about walking away, prompted no doubt by his adviser Dominic Cummings to show Brussels who is boss, it is a dangerous strategy. Success was never guaranteed but to deliver failure in a way that alienates the UK's biggest trading partner is beyond risky.

Sticking with the poker analogy, it is doubling down to do this when coronavirus has left the UK facing the worst recession in Europe. Proving a political point when jobs are being lost by the tens of thousands a week and the economy is in free-fall is betting the house to prove a point.

Strip away the rhetoric and Johnson is risking all over one of the UK's smallest industries – fishing – which needs a trade deal because it sells the bulk of what it catches into the EU. Ironically as a Conservative prime minister he is also battling to be able to outdo the French with state aid handouts to businesses. These will be needed if he delivers an outcome that makes a bad economic situation even worse.

It seems the 'oven ready' easiest trade deal in history is beyond his ability to deliver. He expected the EU to roll over on its principles but it is refusing to do so. That is no surprise, given that it represents 27 countries and 500 million people to the UK's 60 million. Far from being Churchillian, which he sees as his alter ego, Johnson is managing to make Private Pike from Dad's Army look competent.

It may all be bluff but Johnson, and a seemingly reluctant Gove, are doing all they can to pin the blame if negotiations fail on an 'intransigent' Brussels. His supporters and advisers might believe this, but the thousands losing their jobs now, and in time history, will see through this.

In reality we will probably have a week of blood letting before negotiations begin again. Johnson can then make the concessions needed to secure a deal, assuring his supporters his belligerence won concessions that were always there for the taking. Johnson and Gove have told businesses they must now prepare for a no deal outcome. Their plan is that the chaos of no deal can then be blamed on business rather than politicians.

With weeks to the collapse of the 'easiest trade deal in history' it is hard to see what businesses can do to prepare for an outcome that will rob them of markets, make imports difficult and wrap businesses in red tape that will make the CAP look streamlined and simple. Boil this down to farming and the inevitable question is what can the industry do to prepare? The answer is nothing. With lamb, for example, that goes to France there are no immediate alternatives. Farming cannot prepare to cope with the surge of cheap food that will be the by-product of a government desperate to find new trading partners beyond the EU. Brexit advocates will argue that the UK buys more food from the EU than it sells there, but the supply equation is complex and it is not simply a matter of UK farmers taking up the slack.

When Johnson and Gove, in 2016, were urging farmers to vote for Brexit it was all about reducing regulations. It was never about loss of markets and it was certainly never about dismantling our standards to allow in cheap food from the United States, South America and Asia where the government will target trade deals. It is not in a strong position with a population of just 60 million. Already the planned deal with Japan is far short of what the UK already has via the EU's free trade deal with that country.

The House of Lords delivered the government another bloody nose over food standards on Monday, but it is unlikely to secure change. The government wants cheap food at all costs and the sooner the farming lobby wakes up to that reality and treats it as hostile the better it will be for agriculture.