18/04/2017 08:12 BST | Updated 18/04/2017 08:12 BST

Shaping Our Future

The starting gun of Article 50 has been fired by the time you read this. The UK is leaving the European Union. It is a decisive, historic, moment but the clarity we investors crave for is somewhat lacking.

We do now have a pretty certain timetable for Brexit. We are told we will no longer be EU citizens by April 2019. So starts a series of critical negotiations in which our Government will seek a deal that secures both the terms of our exit and establishes a new trading relationship with our next door neighbours.

At the centre of this new relationship will be a free trade deal. As I have said before, we do not underestimate the importance of getting this deal right. The CLA will be playing its part supporting our ministers and officials in this task, and we will be taking our message across the water to European farming and landowning leaders. Securing the right deal is in everyone's interest.

There will also be much fighting talk of other free trade deals the UK can establish around the world. Talking and planning is a good thing, but we will be urging ministers to avoid distraction from the main chance. For the food and farming sector in particular, getting our trade deal with the EU right must be the absolute priority.

We will shed few tears at leaving the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). How far the Government is able or willing to design a new policy in the next 12 months remains to be seen. Lack of progress in the publication of the 'green paper' consultations does not inspire confidence that decisions will be made soon. This is not a comfortable reality for farmers looking beyond the guarantee of basic payments up to the end of 2020.

However, the Government is committed to transferring all the rules and regulations that underpin the CAP into UK law as part of the Great Repeal Bill. This opens up the possibility that a transitional interregnum may star after 2020, until such time as the Government has built a replacement and legislated.

That would be the most pragmatic outcome. It is so important to get the policy right for the long term, and on our own UK specific terms. That is more important than rushing to redefine the way we support agriculture and land management in just a few months.

The challenges of Brexit are urgent, the uncertainty is uncomfortable and both have major implications for our farming and the rural economy. The challenge for ministers, and for us all, is to hold our nerve, create the space to make the right decisions and avoid being rushed into blind alleys that have unintended consequences.

We can and should remain confident that one day, many years after Brexit, a more productive and competitive agricultural sector will be at the heart of a growing rural economy, and with a new land use policy framework that better serves the needs of all parts of the UK. Time to roll up our sleeves and shape that future.