THERE IS a lot of truth in the old adage that when you are up to your neck in alligators it is easy to forget the first objective was to drain the swamp.

As the wait for the next phase of the Brexit fudge continues, it is equally easy to forget that back in 2016, when votes to leave the EU were being canvassed, the message was about escaping the red tape and bureaucracy of the CAP.

Now events unfolding suggest we may look back with some affection to the relative simplicity of the CAP structures. We may also look with some regret to the days when we had direct payments guaranteed. That remains the situation in the EU-27 under the new CAP. Despite the greening plans of the European Commission, there was never any suggestion that direct payments would end. Farmers there must be feeling a lot more confident about their financial future than is the case across the UK.

Through some deft spinning of the facts, Boris Johnson is setting up a victory of sorts on access to UK fishing waters to sell a bare bones Brexit deal. Whatever the outcome, what has become clear is that in the negotiation, it is the EU that held its nerve.

Ultimately it is willing to reluctantly walk away with no deal and pay the political price for sticking to its principles. Johnson may bluster that he is willing to do so, but with parliament and the country still deeply divided over Brexit and the economy in free-fall, he would pay a greater political price for failure. That would be all the higher if it was over an industry that represents less than 0.2% of the UK economy.

The announcement that England will be moving to an agricultural model that is ultra green will bring enormous changes to the structure of UK farming. Indeed given the realities of devolution, there will no longer be a UK-wide farming model. What the devolved regions will want in their support structure will be very different to the English model. It remains to be seen how much autonomy they can win from Westminster and whether it will be willing to hand over the money with no strings attached. What is certain is that greater environmental controls and the linking of support to green outcomes will create levels of red tape that make the CAP look simple.

Back in 2016, 'leave' advocates used greening and the three crop rule, quite rightly, as examples of the senseless bureaucracy of the CAP. Now with the model being introduced in England that is exactly the road they are travelling. In 2016 the talk was of a support model that took account of local conditions – one that would encourage a productive, efficient farming industry capable of competing globally. There was no suggestion then that food production would become a by-product of farming, with green outcomes as defined by the government the new output.

English farmers are set to become park keepers and farmers in Scotland and indeed Northern Ireland and Wales need to hope devolution delivers. Farmers are rightly proud of being the foundation of the food industry. They are also proud of creating the countryside and delivering for the environment, but as a by-product of food production. That is a difference that seems to have been missed in London. Ironically having used greening to justify a 'leave' vote, those that made this case back in 2016 have landed English farmers with a model greener than the new green CAP. Scottish farmers certainly have cause to be grateful for devolution and will rightly expect it to deliver for them.

The bigger question is what impact this will have on farmers' voting in the Holyrood election next year – and perhaps more significantly in a future independence referendum. One of the big issues for Brexit supporters was the integrity of the UK. However by choosing a farm support model for England unlikely to be acceptable elsewhere, the Johnson government is splitting farming.

That will change everything in the industry, from breeding objectives through research to the very concept of British farming that has been around for hundreds of years. In the Common Agricultural Policy we had a model, with many flaws, that was common across 28 EU member states. Now we face having a new model not even common between the UK regions, further loosening the ties that bind the UK together.