BARRING A cataclysmic political event, we are on the road to a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.

This is now in the hands of the negotiating officials rather than politicians and there are few leaks emerging around what is happening. The signs are that the EU is talking about the concessions it is delivering, while the UK is turning its past red lines pink.

This reflects the weakness of the UK position and the reality that even a politician as bold as Boris Johnson would not risk playing politics while staring into the worst recession the UK economy has ever faced.

Timescales remain fluid. Both sides will want to spin the deal to make it appear a victory, when what is needed is a victory for economic logic and common sense. Rumour has it that a loss for Trump to Biden in the US elections may finally convince Johnson he needs to secure a deal with the EU. Win or lose for Trump, the media storm that will follow the US election may be 'a good time to bury bad news' if Johnson is faced with the prospect of disappointing the pro-Brexit wing of his party that has never seen a need for compromise.

This all leads to the question about what a deal would mean for agriculture, and whether all the unanswered questions will be answered. It seems doubtful that any negotiated settlement will set out the final road map. There will be issues kicked into touch, to be settled as political ideals are turned into legislation. A deal will however allow the show to remain on the road after the end of December.

For agriculture it will probably create many of the conditions of the existing single market, allowing exporting to the EU 27 to continue. It will also allow normal trade in food into the UK market.

That would not be a bad outcome, according to most observers, but it brings new questions. Those are around the issue of being in the single market of right, as is the case now when the UK is a member state. In the future the UK will be in the EU market because of a legal treaty. Over the Internal Markets Bill, the UK government has shown its willingness to tear up such treaties. This leaves it in a weak position if the EU at some point tries to do the same.

This goes back to the difference between rights and obligations. It also raises the complex issue of the UK having to match EU standards to be in that market. With its Agriculture Bill rejection of UK food standards being protected in legislation, London has set out its stall. However it is hard to believe French farmers, for example, will not demand that the UK is fully aligned with EU legislation and that will be a hard demand for European capitals to resist.

It is easy to forget that the Brexit vote was more than four years ago. Since then the UK has not been part of EU policy making. While we have been stuck in a world of indecision about the future for agriculture, the EU has been marching on to new policies. It has agreed the basis for a new CAP, which although greener is more farmer friendly, with its direct payments, than environmental groups wanted.

It has however set new standards as part of its Farm to Fork strategy and these are regulations the UK may be asked to meet to trade in a semi-single market relationship. The EU has also agreed to overhaul its geographical origin regulations, which gave PGI status to Scottish products from the Arboath Smokie to lamb and beef. The changes are about simplification, but this raises questions about what the UK will do for a similar scheme, given that the terms it now uses will no longer be relevant when the EU has a new scheme.

Then there is the issue of trade deals beyond the EU and the fact that these will almost certainly bring food imports of doubtful quality. These could impact our trading relationship with the EU and provide ammunition for EU farmers opposed to UK imports. The big caveat is to beware of spin. That happened this week over Japan, where the government trumpeted as a success a trade deal that offers less than UK businesses already have via the world's biggest free trade deal between the EU and Japan.