George Eustice has been re-appointed as a Defra Minister to serve under Michael Gove in Theresa May’s new-look Government.
The Cornwall MP, who saw his majority reduced from 7,000 to just over 1,500 in last Thursday’s vote, has been a Defra Minister since May 2015. His return brings continuity to the farming brief at a time when agricultural policy is set to be the subject off a fundamental review as the UK prepares for life outside the EU.
Mr Eustice campaigned prominently to leave the EU in the run-up to the EU Referendum, pledging the UK government ‘will continue to give farmers and the environment as much support – or perhaps even more- as they get now’.
He also promised farmers would be free from EU regulation but would retain access to the EU market via a free trade agreement. Since the referendum, he has been a strong advocate of using funding under a domestic agricultural policy to incentivise moves towards ‘higher welfare’ livestock systems on farms.
“Fundamentally, I think there is a great opportunity to create an international brand based on the best animal health and welfare standards in the world,”
Mr Eustice is considered to be an ally of Mr Gove, who performed a series of interviews today following his surprise return to the Cabinet. Key points to emerge from the interviews, included:
- Mr Gove is ‘naturally flattered to be asked back into government and said there was no bad feeling between him and the Prime Minister, describing himself as a ‘huge fan’ of Mrs May.
- He flatly denied suggestions by Deputy Labour Tom Watson that media tycoon Rupert Murdoch was behind his appointment.
- He promised that, as the Government brings migration ‘down to sustainable levels’, it will do so in consultation with industry, adding that ‘one of our most important manufacturing industries is agriculture, so we need to make sure that the workforce is there and the support is there’.
- He confirmed the Conservative manifesto pledge that subsidies would remain at today’s levels until 2022
- Mr Gove rejected criticism of his environmental credentials by some campaigners, notably Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who said he was ‘entirely unfit’ to be Environment Secretary, citing his previous stance on climate change. Mr Gove said he had had spoken in 2006 in favour of a bill making it easier to fight climate change.
In other Ministerial reshuffle news, two ministers have left the Department for Exiting the European Union – David Jones MP and Lord Bridges of Headley.