SORTING FACTS from spin is always a challenge and this goes far beyond Brexit and our departure from the EU.

After a month in January when we were bombarded in the media about the demand for vegan food, reality was very different. Despite weeks of virtue signalling by the major supermarkets about vegan products, their food sales did not move, while those of the discounters did.

This confirms that the less than 0.5% of the population that are vegan are more adept at publicity than they are at driving demand.

That has nothing to do with events in Europe, but it was a satisfying statistic after a month when farming has been the whipping boy for the media. Boris Johnson has reportedly banned staff from using the term Brexit, on grounds that it has happened and we are in a new world. That is another example of fantasy trumping facts.

But there is some logic in his suggestion that the UK cannot align with EU rules after the end of the transition period. To do so would make the whole exercise pointless and would leave the UK worse off than ever, because it would have to accept rules from Brussels over which it has no say.

For farming this might prove good news, given the direction of travel of the new Green Deal that is the cornerstone of European Commission policy for the next six years. Part of this is a farm to fork strategy for agriculture, which demands a big reduction in pesticide use, in favour of non-chemical control methods.

It is also built around a reduction in the use of fossil fuel based fertilisers, although in fairness it includes positives such as a greater use of genomics and a tougher stance on antibiotic use. By any standards this is a radical green agenda. Having pressed for Brexit, the government in London now has an opportunity to strike a blow for independence of thinking in agriculture. It can, if it wishes, avoid this policy direction, putting clear blue water between a progressive, science driven farming industry in the UK and the green strategy of the EU.

That would be welcomed by many farmers who voted remain and for those who voted leave it would be proof they were right to do so. However, the UK government seems determined to out-green the EU, for example with its decision to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2035, despite evidence that the networks to charge electric vehicles cannot be in place in that timescale.

If it follows the green lead from Brussels on agriculture, then it may as well align with all farming and food policies and gain the benefits of doing so. This is classic Catch 22 situation.

The only thing that might influence the government against the European approach is its desire to get closer to the United States. With no economic logic to justify the policy, its central goal is a trade deal with the US. Many in the Conservative party would put that ahead of a trade deal with the EU, largely for political reasons. On food, the EU and US are on different tracks, with the US agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, recently insisting that for trade to happen, the UK and EU must follow the US by putting 'science ahead of fear'.

Where the Johnson hype about not aligning with EU rules hits the reality buffers is if the EU says no to that approach. It has made clear that if the UK wants a comprehensive trade deal, similar to the terms we have now, it must be on the basis of common standards.

The government says it want a Canada style deal, but on scale there is no comparison. This may be what London wants, but it is not something Brussels will give. Reality will bite if the government has to decide whether to walk away from a deal with the EU over its insistence that it will not align with EU rules.

That would be a huge gamble with a significant measure of hypocrisy. We are, rightly, telling the US we will not import chlorine-washed chicken or hormone treated beef, because they do not align with our rules. That is also what the EU is saying to London, and that is why the government is wrong to take a position it may find impossible to defend in the white heat of trade negotiations.