Nick von Westenholz

The NFU has launched a new Brexit unit that will aim to strengthen and extend its political reach during upcoming negotiations.

The new unit will be led by its former head of government affairs Nick von Westenholz, who joins the union as its director of EU exit and international trade in the new year.

Von Westenholz is a barrister who has worked as CEO of the Crop Protection Association since the start of 2013. He would work to ensure the NFU had “a co-ordinated and constant presence in its Brexit conversations with government in the crucial months ahead”, it said.

“We have made no secret of our determination to seize the opportunities offered by the forthcoming Brexit deals to ensure British farming has a profitable and productive future and is able to seize and capitalise on new opportunities,” said NFU director general Terry Jones.

“Farming and food production is politically and strategically important for the UK,” he added. “In the coming weeks and months ahead it is essential that food and farming is front and centre of any talks about the UK’s relationship with Europe and the rest of the world, and I am confident the building blocks being put in place now will ensure the NFU is able to work with the two new government departments: Exiting the EU and International Trade.”

The NFU is also recruiting a new head of external affairs and two new external affairs managers to strengthen its London presence. “Recruitment for these posts has already started and I look forward to welcoming the new members of this team to the NFU as we work together to create a positive, profitable and productive future for British farming,” Jones added.

Von Westenholz said: “I’m delighted to be taking up this new post at the NFU at such a critical time for UK agriculture. While Brexit presents clear challenges to UK farming in the coming years, if we get it right it offers the prospect of an exciting future, both to the benefit of domestic food production and our precious natural environment.”