THE EU opened its financial coffers this week with ambitious plans to support economic recovery after coronavirus. It is not clear how this will be paid for, but the fund available to member states is now well over €1 trillion.

At one level this is about economic recovery and the need to get businesses and markets operating again within the context of a single market. However the politics behind it are more subtle. With the lead again taken by the traditional drivers of EU policy, France and Germany, Brussels wants to head off any suggestion European unity has been weakened.

There are concerns that a poor response would drive others, most notably Italy as a founding nation of the original six EEC members, to follow the UK exit. Instead Fortress Europe has been seen to rise to a huge challenge. No-one is sure where the money will ultimately come from, but that is seen as less important than the politics.

This opens up clear differences with the UK. The EU has achieved some unity of approach between 27 countries, but London cannot even manage that with the devolved administrations of the UK. The bullish Johnson approach to easing the lockdown has been rejected in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.

While other countries are focussed on recovery, the government in London is tied up in a debate about an adviser breaking lockdown restrictions. There is little focus on recovery and no real vision. This week London has been seeking to up the Brexit stakes by suggesting it will walk away if Brussels does not negotiate more seriously. These comments lack conviction, when there is no vision with or without an EU trade deal.

If the EU can come up with a €1 euro recovery plan, it will equally find ways to live with UK deciding to go it alone in terms of trade. The architect of the Brexit negotiations, Michael Gove, is a political pragmatist. He must know that in any game talking up your game-plan does not change a weak hand of cards or a weak team.

If the UK had an economic recovery plan to match the EU-27 it would be in a stronger position to go head to head with Brussels. But for now that it not the case. The Cummings affair is highlighting Boris Johnson's weaknesses. Scotland's chief medical officer did the honourable thing, and in the coronavirus crisis she was more useful than a dishevelled political spin artist.

The EU recovery plan to putting political water between the approach of London and Brussels. However there is even deeper water coming in terms of agricultural support, with the EU-27 now going ultra-green with its new Farm to Fork strategy to drive low carbon food production. How much of this plan survives time will tell, but so determined is the Commission to see it implemented that it pressed ahead when the farming and food industry was vocally calling for a delay because of the coronavirus crisis.

This is, ironically, a mirror image of what the UK is doing when many are calling for a delay to the Brexit transition date ending in December. The EU plan is certainly radical and affects every part of the food industry, as its name suggests. Headline areas range from farm practices, through sustainable food being supported by legislation, to direct actions to limit food waste.

As a plan it is in many ways a victory for the green lobby over the farming lobby. It paves the way for a 50% cut in the use of pesticides deemed risky – presumably by green lobbyists rather than scientists; it calls for a 20% reduction in fertiliser use, a big increase in organic farming and a welcome 50% reduction in the use of antimicrobials.

Like the curate's egg, parts of the plan are exceedingly good and make sense. But for the first time since the old EEC was created, agricultural policy is broader than farming interests and food production.

This will be diluted in negotiations, but a new stumbling block is being created for the UK to access the EU-27 market. When Farm to Fork is in place we will no longer have the same rules or standards as the EU-27. Whether or not a trade deal is agreed that could be used to keep UK products out of countries that do not want them.