BREXIT IS akin to a divorce after a 40 plus year marriage.

Since the referendum in June 2016 we have been living with a separation, where we are no longer invited to parties and other events. Now the decree nisi, in March 2019 is looming, with the final decree 21 months later when the transition period ends.

As with the breakdown of all relationships, the hope on both sides is that acrimony can be avoided – the proverbial wish to remain friends. While I am happy to lack personal experience, most people would deem such an outcome unlikely.

In the Brexit negotiations it has to be remembered that the UK was the partner that decided to leave. The EU-27 sees itself as the aggrieved party, even if it created some of the condition that forced the UK to walk away.

The European Commission and individual EU-27 member states have made clear that the UK cannot have the same relationship it had as a member state. For farmers, one of the key questions is whether they will look back with some regrets as they head off into new relationships with different political and trading partners.

If that were to happen it would be unfortunate. Many farmers voted to leave the EU because they did not like the bureaucracy associated with the CAP. They must now be wondering whether, with the same officials in charge, things really can change.

Failure will be easily measured. As in a divorce followed by a new relationship, if people look back wistfully to the old days things will not have worked out as expected.

The jury is still out on whether this will be the case with farm support structures. We know we will have a green Brexit, with payments for public goods such as the environment and animal welfare standards. The EU seems set to stick with the direct payments structure we have now, possibly with a bigger environmental element and potentially with a reduced budget because of the financial impact of the UK's departure. Until the Defra Secretary, Michael Gove, finally puts some flesh on the bones of the support structures we will not know whether to look back wistfully to our past love, with all their imperfections that made us walk away.

Fairness in the food supply chain has always been a big issue for farmers. The UK stole a march with the Grocery Code Adjudicator. Now the EU is set to catch up and even overtake us. Farmers could now end up feeling they are losing out on the protection enjoyed by their counterparts in the EU 27.

The same applies to food promotion. The EU is breaking all records in exports markets, with Phil Hogan personally leading trade missions to open new markets. After Brexit the UK will have to decide how it will promote food, and more importantly what funding will be made available from the government for doing so. That is a big issue, because after 2019 we will be head-to-head in the same markets with the EU-27, and they have an annual budget of around €180 million. Even on a pro-rata basis, matching that will demand a big investment from London, beginning with an acceptance that this is a price that has to be paid.

It is when it comes to trade that our look to the past might be most wistful. The EU, and the EC and EEC before it, were all built on the concept of Fortress Europe so far as imports were concerned. Those inside the fortress were protected from cheap imports and this applied to all member states. That for years has kept out cheap food, to the advantage of farmers in the EU.

Now we are set to lose that protection, as the price of the UK wanting to forge independent trade deals, rather than remaining in the single market with the EU-27. That is a political issue that goes to the heart Brexit for many, along with blue passports and all the other symbols of true independence.

However we have already had Australia saying that as part of any trade deal the UK will have to accept beef from animals treated with hormones. That will produce a massive 'us too' reaction from north America. This is the issue above all the others that could leave us wondering whether past loves were in fact better than courting racier new models.