THE GOVERNMENT in London made much of the trade deal it secured with New Zealand, citing this as an example of a post-Brexit success. It also suggested it could be the blueprint for other deals, all of which would involve opening the UK market to food imports at reduced or zero tariffs.

That issue has slipped down the agenda as the war in Ukraine has changed trade in food. However farmers remain unconvinced that, when it comes to big southern hemisphere producers like New Zealand, the government has taken on board their concerns.

Later this month we might have a better idea as to whether London needed to give so much to buy a deal. The EU has just signed a mutual cooperation pact with New Zealand covering a range of social and economic areas. It hopes by the end of July to have a bilateral trade deal in place. For London this takes the gloss off its claims of success in securing a deal, given that New Zealand has always been more interested in a deal with the EU and its market of 500 million people.

We will see how much the EU had to give away of tariffs for sensitive products including dairy, lamb and wine to secure a deal. It has to be a good bet it will be less than the UK. The EU knows any deal it agrees has to secure unanimous member state support. Brussels learned with the Mercosur deal in South America that deals damaging to agriculture or the environment cannot secure support. There are no environmental issues with New Zealand, but countries like France and Ireland will always protect European agriculture against cheap imports.

When the EU/New Zealand deal emerges it will show how much the UK gave away to secure its deal – and whether that deal really came at a cost for farmers here that would be unacceptable in the EU.

Russia's attack on Ukraine has changed the world in a way we never imagined possible. It has created a new era of food security and wider security issues being linked to the major global trade blocs. This is why a country like Ukraine is so keen to become a full EU member. It sees that goal in terms of markets and security against Russian aggression. Much as Boris Johnson might fund Ukraine and indulge in mutual back-slapping with its president, it sees its future and best defence against Russia in being part of the EU.

It is six years now since the referendum on UK membership led to Brexit and no-one could have imagined then how great would be the change to today's global power dynamic.

This new dynamic has radically changed how people see and rate food security. The EU has just undertaken a survey across all member states of what people see as the priority of the CAP. Over 50% now say its primary aim should be to deliver a secure food supply in Europe. This is well up on a previous survey in 2020 and it is a figure that will rise as concerns about food availability grow when the full impact of lack of supplies from Ukraine bites even harder later this year and into 2023.

Over 55% saw the main focus of the CAP as the delivery of affordable food. When asked if the CAP delivered food security, almost 80% said it did. Inevitably, given that the questions were drafted by the European Commission, there was a green element to the conclusions. Two thirds believed farmers could do more to mitigate climate change; 90% said extreme weather linked to climate change affected food security. Crucially a very high 90% deemed rural areas important, even if they lived in towns.

This is a positive report for European farmers, confirming that people see them as essential in the food security equation. The importance they attach to rural areas was also encouraging. This report gives the EU a base for policy making around people's priorities.

As London continues putting green outcomes ahead of food production and a thriving agriculture, it would be wise to reflect the Brexit freedoms it wanted by asking people in the UK the same questions the EU has put to its citizens. I suspect politicians might then realise that in the real world, food security tops all other issues.