THERE WAS a blue moon across the UK last Saturday – and in line with the saying about against-the-odds outcomes when this happens, the government finally caved in over food standards.

It did this in the face of relentless pressure from the farming lobby, parts of the food industry, the environmental lobby, the media and general public. It was a wise decision and one that gives some point to the Trade and Agriculture Commission. It will be two years until a blue moon comes around again, but hopefully it will not take that long for economic logic to again triumph over political dogma at Westminster.

This is a notable victory for Lord Curry, who came up with the amendment to give the Commission a legal role in analysing and reporting to parliament on the implications of potential trade deals. This is what the U-turn delivered and finally the farmers on the Commission will see some point in Zoom meetings of the body. The challenge now is to ensure the amendment to the Agriculture Bill is fully implemented and that the Commission is given the time and resource it needs to properly assess trade deals. It must then be taken seriously by parliament when it decides whether or not to sign off on any trade deals involving food.

By any standards this is a big U-turn for a government with an 80-seat majority. The pressure for this to happen began with the amendment to the Agriculture Bill from the former Conservative MEP, Neil Parish, who wanted UK food standards protected by legislation. This does not go as far as that, which is unfortunate. It is important that the industry now makes sure that the issues and focus are kept broad. Reporting of the U-turn concentrated on the government rejecting chlorinated chicken and hormone treated beef from the United States, but the role of the Commission must go far beyond that. Food standards cover areas far beyond these techniques, including animal welfare, the environment, and hygiene and social welfare standards in processing plants.

In its newly powerful deliberations on trade deals, the Commission must ask wider questions about the impact they might have on our trading relationship with our biggest markets. Much as the government might like it not to be the cases, this is the EU and that will remain the case for the foreseeable future. It remains to be seen what trade outcome the present Brexit negotiations deliver, but what farmers want is access to the EU on similar terms to those now in place. That would make sense at every level.

If, for example, a trade deal with the US is on the table the Commission must be free to ask whether the food imports it would bring, with or without dodgy chicken and beef, would threaten trade arrangements with the EU. There are bound to be concerns there that food could be imported, processed in the UK and sold as British when it would not meet EU standards. We already know that the more a product often claims to be British, the more we need to suspect the ingredients.

This would ensure the Commission's role as a fig leaf for political decisions by ministers can be ripped away by this amendment. Perhaps the government acted with sound moral judgement and saw the flaws in its approach, but that seems unlikely. In reality its position had become untenable and it was an issue where rejecting the views of the House of Lords was not going to work. Farmers must now ensure that this issue falling out of the general media headlines does not become a means to weaken the U-turn victory that has been achieved. The tactic of working with other lobby organisation worked well and it must be shown to stand the test of time as Brexit moves into its next era.

Over the Brexit talks, Brussels is continuing to play its cards close to its chest. There are few leaks and those that are emerging are mostly in the form of spin from Downing Street. These seem to be around fishing, which although a big industry in some communities only represents 0.2% of the UK economy and is now built around exporting to the EU. It is however an emotive touchstone, so we will probably see Boris Johnson using modest success over fishing to hide a generally bad deal in which the EU will hold to most of its principles while the UK compromises.