BACK IN 2016, before the referendum on EU membership, 'leave' advocates were promising farmers a future free of CAP regulations. They were also promising a future where the UK would have a progressive, technically efficient and globally competitive farming industry.

That persuaded many farmers to vote 'leave' – but those promises seem to have been forgotten.

One of those making the case for leave, which included that commitment to a more efficient industry, was Michael Gove. However as the Defra minister he seems to have forgotten that commitment. Indeed Gove now seems determined to out-green the EU, promising higher animal welfare regulations and environmental standards that will lead the world.

Like the extra millions promised to the NHS, that commitment to a competitive, progressive farming industry has been forgotten. Instead farmers are on course – if the Agricultural Bill is finally agreed – to be rewarded for delivering public goods for the environment. Their role as food producers and as the basis of the UK food industry will become secondary. They will effectively become paid park keepers. Any food shortages that would create will be made up with cheap food imports. We know from comments by the former Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, that those cheap imports will be tariff-free to give consumers a Brexit financial bonus from a no-deal situation.

Over the years we have seen agricultural productivity and progress moving from something to be admired to something deemed undesirable for the environment. This view is alive and well in the EU, with its precautionary principle, behind an anti-science approach. There are few benefits in Brexit for farmers, but a move away from this would have been one. However it is not going to happen.

The government, cynically, sees votes in the green lobby. Standing up for agriculture is not fashionable, but activist groups are deemed to be beyond criticism. Even if what they are saying is wrong there are no votes for any minister in criticising them. With politicians and the media these groups are automatically on the side of the angels.

Against that background, credit has to go to the European Commission for taking a stand against the latest anti-agriculture report from Greenpeace. In its sights was the CAP and demands for green groups to have a greater say in its future. Greenpeace claimed the CAP has encouraged large farms at the expense of smaller farms. They claimed 70% of arable land is devoted to beef and dairy and that 70% of livestock are produced on what are deemed to be large farms.

Their report also claimed that beef and dairy farms receive €30 billion a year in direct payments. These and a raft of other claims were used to justify a demand for the CAP to change radically to encourage 'extensive' livestock production in the short term and entirely plant-based vegan diets in the longer term. To its credit the Commission hit back, rejecting the report and its conclusions and what it described as a dubious use of statistics. 'Dubious' is simply a nice way of saying the figures have been twisted to deliver the conclusion the report wants.

It was the Commission's robust defence of the present CAP that set me thinking about the situation in the UK and the promises made to persuade farmers to vote for Brexit. No-one said then that it could end up being about losing our nearest and best export markets, a surge of cheap food imports and rising costs for inputs priced in euro and US dollars.

Instead the promise was a look back to a golden age in agriculture in the 1960s and 1970s, when the name of the game for scientists and farmers alike was to embrace technology. Science does not have to be at odds with good environmental practice, but that now seems to be the public mood. The question now is whether the government in London would be as forthright as the Commission in standing up to Greenpeace and defending an agricultural policy designed to help farmers and guarantee a secure supply of quality food.

Even farmers who voted Brexit must now find it hard to believe there was substance behind promises that it would be a vote for a technological future for farming. They wanted decisions by those who understand the agricultural industry rather than based on pressure group spin. Sadly it seems the odds on that might have been boosted by sticking with Brussels rather than London.