IT IS hard to get our focus off Brexit, despite uncertainty at Westminster making debate akin to trying to nail the proverbial jelly onto a wall.

While support is crucial for farming, true economic fortunes are still driven by real markets. The combination of a continuing weak sterling, because of Brexit, and global circumstances, seems to be pointing to stability for the rest of the year.

With heat having finally arrived, crops are benefitting across Europe from there being plenty of soil moisture to support growth. This is not universal, but reports from the European Commission and others now highlight good growing conditions.

However the legacy of difficult times remains, and forecasts are that while oilseed and cereal yields will be above the five-year average, overall output will be slightly down on last year. There is still a long way to go to harvest, but if that is maintained it should be a positive.

On the dairy side, fears of over-production, in response to better prices, are easing. Export markets remain strong, thanks to improving global economic fortunes, and this is allowing extra production to be absorbed. Again this should bring stability over the coming months.

This could all of course go horribly wrong, since agricultural markets are exposed not only to what happens on farms but to wider economic conditions, including oil prices. Beef markets are more difficult to read and are driven here by trends in Europe rather than global commodity markets.

At the quality end we target, forecasts are that the slow, but steady decline in demand will continue. This is driven by cost, competing meats and a swing in consumer tastes away from red meat. This is hard to counter, but the industry will have to try. This will be one of the post-Brexit challenges, when decisions will have to be taken about how to make up the loss of EU funding for promotion. For all agricultural products in the UK, both for home and export markets, the government needs to accept that it will have to dig deep to even maintain the trade we already have.

One of the big threats to beef is coming inexorably down the line. That is the Mercosur trade deal, which will give the South American countries, including Brazil, special tariff access to the EU for 99,000 tonnes of beef. Despite farm lobby opposition, this deal is now unstoppable and is expected to be completed by July.

One question still up in the air is the make up of the quota allocation, between fresh and frozen meat. If the farm lobby could push successfully for at least 50% having to be frozen and sold into manufacturing markets that might counter some of the damage. If however South America is free to opt for fresh beef targeted at the retail market then it will cause more damage.

It is too late to stop this deal, but the farming lobby and Mercosur-sceptic member states, led by France and Ireland, could ensure plenty of devil is put into the detail. The justification would be Brazil's poor hygiene record, which has seen a third of its poultry export capacity banned from the EU for falsifying salmonella test results.

One concrete example of the fallout from Brexit will be a vote in the farm lobby organisation, COPA, as to whether the UK farm unions can remain full members until the transition period ends and the UK is fully out of the EU.

There is no question that, whether the UK goes in the short or long term, its contribution, financially and otherwise, to the lobbying organisation will be missed. Over the years the UK unions have done a lot to make COPA an effective, professional organisation. But with Brexit all things change and it may well be better to go quickly, rather than limping on as a lame duck member to the end. That is up to COPA, but this reflects a wider issue of the EU bodies disengaging with the UK.

In the EU-27, realisation is dawning about the expertise that will be lost. That applies from research, where UK institutions will no longer be able to be involved to diplomacy where UK skills have been key to good decision making over the years. However that era is over, and day by day we see evidence of the fallout, as we all weigh the potential consequences of change.