IT IS hard to believe it is five years since the campaign to persuade farmers to support Brexit was in full swing.

Amongst the promises made then was that the industry would escape the control of the CAP, and the greening that was central to its faults. The promise was of a better fixture outside the EU, with new policies to create a productive, profitable and globally competitive industry. The main message was that things would be different and better.

That was when a large red bus was also going around, promising untold wealth for the NHS because money would no longer be going to the EU. The world, we were told, was lining up to sign trade deals. Because the EU 'needed the UK more than it needs the EU', a trade deal with the Brussels would be the 'easiest and quickest' in history.

Reality has been very different, although to be fair to the government, Covid has blown all plans off course, while the EU has proved deliberately more intransigent that most people believed likely. The UK put sovereignty ahead of market access; the EU put member state solidarity and Fortress Europe equally far ahead of an easy trade deal with the UK.

In farming many really did think that no matter what happened with the rest of Brexit, agriculture would find a better future outside the constraints of the CAP. Technology and efficiency, where the UK excels over other countries, was to be freed from the dead hand grip of EU restrictions. This, we were assured, would put an ocean of clear blue water between the EU, with its precautionary principle approach to science, and a newly progressive farming industry in the UK.

By now we should have been looking with no regrets at an EU wedded to an ever greener CAP, while the UK forged ahead. Instead the farming industry is facing a future likely to be driven by even greener policies than the Green Deal of the EU. This must have even the most enthusiastic Brexit supporters in agriculture asking what then was the point of the exercise?

The acid test of success is whether the industry believes it had a lucky escape from the bureaucracy of the CAP. That case has not been made. Instead the UK is seemingly on a path to seek credentials as one of the world's greenest farming industries, with no guarantee that translates into profitability or efficiency. That flies in the face of the government's determination to make life easier for countries exporting food to the UK, from systems that will not face the burden of having to help deliver an overly ambitious green programme.

With the COP26 conference due in Scotland, Boris Johnson wants to walk tall at it and the G7 summit, claiming he has put his money, or more accurately taxpayer's money, where his mouth is. He wants to be adored by the green lobby just as he once was by Brexiteers. This wish to be popular remains one of his major failings. He demonstrated that this week by threatening legislation against the now seemingly doomed European Super league in football, in comments high on popularism but short on fact.

Johnson has now committed the UK to going further and faster than the EU in reducing carbon emissions. These remain an easy but not particularly effective measures of action against climate change, as was highlighted in the report on the future of Scottish livestock farming. Real progress is about becoming more efficient in a sustainable way – the process dubbed sustainable intensification.

This is where the UK could have shown maturity of judgement and approach over the EU, but it is set to fail in that task. Slogans and political pipe dreams are being pushed as the answer, rather than science. This contrasts with the government's highly effective approach to Covid vaccinations, which is a celebration of science delivering good outcomes.

Instead from Downing Street we are getting the tired old message that progress to this green nirvana depends on farmers producing and consumers eating less red meat and fewer dairy products. That is exactly the same message coming from Brussels. When not pushing his green dreams of global popularity, Johnson, who pleaded with farmers to support Brexit, should take some time to explain to them what happened to those promises of a globally competitive, profitable and productive farming industry outside the CAP.