REGARDLESS of how anyone voted back in 2016, as we get closer to Brexit the scale of the task looks daunting.

The list of issues to be resolved in agriculture is long. Even if the transition period is extended, this on its own will not solve the many big issues still up in the air. As we remain stuck on the starting blocks, because politicians cannot agree on anything, there is a growing sense that the rest of the EU is moving away from single issue Brexit politics.

The EU-27 countries are now shaping the future they want, having accepted it is up to the UK to decide the relationship it wants with them. In short, once the government in London makes that decision, then the rest of Europe will engage on the detail of the relationship. Until that happens, they have effectively become bored with the debate, tired of waiting for progress and moved on with what is more important to them.

That is the shape of the post-Brexit EU-27 and the appointment of a new European Commission and parliament in 2019. We take comfort in the fact that the EU-27 wants to trade with the UK, and indeed for many that trade is important. But there has always been a Fortress Europe mentality in the EU and that is increasingly evident now.

Most of the EU-27 want to trade with the UK, and that ranges from Irish dairy products through German cars to French wine and Italian pasta – but not at any price. The UK has only a population of 60 million and the EU-27 is more focussed on the 500 million people there and their trade than with the rest of the world. They are no longer waiting anxiously for the UK to do a deal. They expect it to happen, but accept now that collectively they may have to live with a hard, no deal Brexit.

They also know that the means to avoid this lies in London, and that they cannot influence internal Conservative party discussions. No deal would not be a good deal for agriculture in the EU-27, any more than it would be a good outcome for UK farmers. But there is an acceptance that Brexit is inevitable and that the rest of the EU must now move on with their plans. They did not want the UK to leave the EU; they did not want Brexit and never expected to see the UK leave the customs union – but they are now making the best of what has happened.

It is probably just coincidence, but as the UK government talks about all the trade deals it will do around the world after Brexit, the EU is turning years of negotiations into new deals. This week it confirmed a new trade and investment deal with Vietnam, which will create opportunities for food; it has also secured a new deal with Singapore and the Commission and Japanese authorities have said they want to move quickly to finalise a free trade deal, already been agreed in principle.

This may look like the EU working to seal deals before the UK is free to negotiate. In reality these are the outcome of negotiations that began back in 2014 when the current Commission began its five-year term. Its commitment then was to use trade to drive economic recovery and trade deals are the result. It wants as many as possible in place before the Commission's term ends next May. This is the driver rather than any wish to make life more difficult for the UK.

There can be no question that the EU is serious about expanding trade in agricultural and food products. It recently pumped a massive €172 million into three-year export food promotion plans, and this is on top of other food programmes all designed to grow both domestic and export markets. This underlines the scale of competition the EU-27 will be after Brexit, when as the world's biggest agri-trader it will be head-to-head with the UK in every market Britain wants to develop.

The farm commissioner, Phil Hogan, said that what the EU is using to develop export markets is its food quality and reputation for culinary excellence. This is the track the EU is now on; it has already moved away from the UK and its concerns about post-Brexit trade deals. Fortress Europe is regrouping without the UK.