THIS IS normally when life in Brussels comes to a halt, but with Brexit looming, many officials will be spending their August break providing the information needed by their bosses as part of the negotiation.

It is hard to have much sympathy for these well paid bureaucrats. Indeed it was their love of red tape in the first place that drove the UK over the edge and into Brexit – although it is doubtful if red tape from London will be any looser than red tape from Brussels once the dust settles.

As we get closer to March 29, 2019, and Brexit, the scale of the challenge looks more daunting. Even if the UK walks away, there are still major issues to be sorted. Examples this week include the UK being stripped of its role in the EU's anti-piracy activities to protect key shipping lanes. The EU also confirmed that the UK can no longer be part of the Galileo satellite programme, despite having invested millions in it and supplying significant expertise.

In agriculture its is not clear what will happen to geographical indication products. The EU is set to join the international organisation that controls these. This could leave the UK out in the cold, unless it can develop its own scheme and then apply to become a member of the organisation created in 1958 to protect intellectual property rights.

The European Commission has also expanded its influence in the World Trade Organisation, agreeing with the US to press for reform and more free trade. This is an approach the UK would support, but it will only be able to apply to be a member of the WTO after Brexit.

A lot going on at the moment confirms that within the European Commission and European parliament there are people who believe the UK must be punished for its decision to leave the EU. If this is compared to a divorce, we are at the stage where all the dirt possible is being thrown by one side – the EU – while the other side is trying to find compromise, while making clear the divorce decision will not be changed.

Sabre rattling about what might happen after Brexit is not helpful.

Member state governments of the EU-27 need to show some backbone by telling the Commission that it needs to negotiate rather than preach. Their concern is that if the UK manages to leave with a successful trade deal in place, others that are drifting to the right and becoming more eurosceptic will want the same. That would be the end of the EU federal project and that is an anathema to many in Brussels.

However the big players whose economic interests would be threatened by a hard Brexit need to put that ahead of protecting a largely discredited federal EU model. Countries, including Germany, need to make clear that economic interests must prevail. That can only happen if a sensible deal is reached with the UK. They need to accept that the political dynamics of the UK mean it is not bluffing when it says that without a deal a hard Brexit is inevitable.

Agriculture across the UK is dependent on the EU for support, and for markets, and it lives with thousands of rules that govern everything from production to exports. These rules are not going to disappear after Brexit. They are the basis for trade with UK supermarkets and export markets. That will not change, even when the government goes down the free trade route to allow in cheap food once it is outside the EU.

We have had a glimpse of how complex Brexit is. There is no way around this, but the pain could be eased with compromise. If I had to bet where that will be, the UK will buy into one of two modified 'off the shelf' options. The Norway model offers single market terms in return for money and free movement of people. The UK has already effectively granted free movement, so this could deliver value for the £39 billion divorce bill.

The other is a simple free trade deal, like the EU has with Canada. This would work for most of the economy, but not for agriculture because of resistance from EU-27 farmers to the UK escaping CAP rules. The third option of drawing up a bespoke deal over a matter of weeks is increasingly a non-starter, both politically and practically.