LIKE other people, I suspect, I have been left somewhat mystified by the UK Government’s power grab. Brexit is complicated enough without getting snarled up in

what are, by any standards, relatively minor details of how responsibilities transferred many years ago from Scotland to Brussels should come back next year.

Why is Westminster so interested and so insistent? It is not as if the Mother of Parliaments could normally care less about Scottish affairs. Yet there is something in these 111 powers that makes them worthy of special attention, and in the case of 24 there is an imperative need not to let them slip from the UK Government’s grasp. Only we’re not allowed to know what.

At least Scots can be counted on to care about Scottish affairs, and the peculiar posture of the government in London has been making an unfortunate impression among us, especially when shrouded in mystery. A volunteer was needed to break this bad news to Theresa May and her merry men.

Step forward the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, usually their messenger boy, who for once has had to reverse his role and take on the job of telling them something they did not really want to know: “the Westminster power grab narrative deployed by the Scottish and Welsh government ... has been difficult to counter”. A typical official response in such circumstances is to throw the dogs a bone, in other words to let them have some information – but not actually the bone they asked for, which would be full disclosure of what is going on.

In this spirit, the UK Government itself released details of 24 powers on which it would impose a “temporary restriction” in order to ensure an “orderly departure” from the EU and, of course, the always necessary “certainty for business” (a pity there is nothing like Brexit to create uncertainty for business). Without this – as David Lidington, the UK minister for these things, helpfully added – there would be a loss of jobs and “probably a higher price for consumers”. Convincing stuff.

Lidington’s line does at least carry us a little way forward in helping those who read the details to reach a few conclusions of their own. Most of the 24 powers are agricultural, one way or another, impacting also on the environment and public health.

The EU has developed the world’s highest standards of agricultural regulation. For example, as part of the programme for protection of public health we have the means to identify and trace individual cattle as they leave their lush green pastures in Aberdeenshire or wherever and in a series of stages get reduced to mince for sale in Glasgow. If disease breaks out, it is important we should easily be able to follow their progress from birth to death. So all cattle need to be correctly identified and issued with a passport. It may sound like Euro-madness, but we are glad of it when there is, say, an epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease.

Such is the regime set by Brussels. It is not a cheap one, but since in Scotland we have gone to the trouble and expense of following it our government would surely wish it to continue beyond Brexit, especially as the excellence of our produce will be a big selling point in any new markets sought outside the EU. Aberdeen Angus mince can be bought not only in Glasgow but also in London, at least at Harrods, so that Tory ministers no doubt eat it. This may be why they claim a fresh “framework” should replace the existing arrangements in such a way as to preserve an internal free market in British beef.

Yet we should note that the Scottish Government has not rested content with merely following EU regulations. Holyrood passed an Animal Health and Welfare Act in 2006 dealing with a wide range of issues from the conditions of slaughter to the prevention of cruelty. In fact all four nations of the UK have their own laws on how animals should be exploited for agriculture, reflecting local customs of the countryside.

This is why agricultural policy is and remains so suitable for devolution, directly contrary to what Lidington has been saying. He has only feeble excuses for the power grab. What he means is that Westminster knows best when it comes to setting up a UK common market in farming produce.

We have to wonder, too, whether this principle will be followed not only in bringing the old era of EU membership to an end but also in opening up a new era of the international trading accords that Brexit Britain will desperately need. Progress on them has so far been meagre. Nothing formal can legally be concluded before the last goodbyes in Brussels on March 29, 2019, but in any case the preliminaries have hardly been encouraging. When May went to take soundings in Delhi, she was told India would accept more British exports if the UK would accept more Indian migrants. That set a limit to the uses of the conversation.

To the UK Government it must now appear vital that no novel obstacles should be strewn across its chosen road to Brexit. And Scottish (or indeed Welsh or Irish) agriculture has the potential to make the ride at least scary or possibly to turn it into a car crash.

Over the seven years Canada needed to negotiate its own free trade agreement with the EU (the one David Davis wants to make a model for the UK), the Canadian provinces proved to be a bit of a handful. Under the country’s repatriated constitution, it is untested whether provincial laws can override international agreements. Especially the sturdy fisherfolk of Newfoundland threatened to defy any new rules that did not suit them. The Canadians are fond enough of each other for it all to have been smoothed over in the end, but that may no longer be true of the nations of the UK. Answer for the Tory Government at Westminster: enforce agricultural uniformity from on high so as to avert any similar threat.

And then looking beyond Brexit, the US is another country from which it will be indispensable for the UK to get an accord on free, or at least freer, trade. Remember that Theresa May was the first foreign leader to go and pay her respects at the White House after Donald Trump moved in there. He has just blotted his copy book by slapping huge tariffs on foreign steel and aluminium, so threatening to unleash a global trade war. But perhaps this tantrum, like some others, will pass.

Still, “trade wars are good, and easy to win” is what Trump says on Twitter. This gives the post-Brexit UK a great deal to fear. If we want a deal with the president, the prospects must be dim for preserving the world’s highest standards of agricultural regulation which, initially at least, we will have taken with us out of the EU. To toady visibly to Trump, they can then be ditched. Non-tariff trading barriers are always the easiest to get rid of – and easiest of all when, as between the US and the UK, there will be at the top a dominant, uniform regime with no states’ rights or devolved administrations to worry about. Scotland will not be allowed to copy Newfoundland.

It seems like the right moment, then, for every Scottish household to look out its recipes for chlorine-washed chicken. The wealthier ones should start saving for the day when American medical insurance schemes become available inside the National Health Service, as one way to avoid all those waiting times during flu epidemics.

Perhaps these new freedoms from the Sweet Land of Liberty will make up just a little for the new uniformity that the UK Government will be able to force on us all, in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland as well as in England, once we are liberated from those terrible European rules and regulations.