The considerable uncertainties of Brexit surfaced with a vengeance last week. At least Michael Gove decided to stay at Defra. He has been the only Conservative Environment Minister who has understood environment and under his direction a considerable amount of work has been done. Given the light weight non entities that preceded him his loss to Defra and the Government at this time would be been a major blow. Over the next few weeks the Environmental implications of the Brexit agreement will be subject to scrutiny and we will cover that.
The Brexit withdrawal agreement commits to action on climate change, environmental principles (precaution & polluter pays) and non-regression on environmental policies.
Business Green ‘Michael Gove has decided to stay on as Environment Secretary after a tumultuous two days during which he was said to be agonising over whether to back the Prime Minister’s Brexit plans. Gove had given his backing to the Withdrawal Agreement during a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, but was notably absent from media rounds yesterday morning and there was intense speculation about whether or not he would join some of his Leave campaigning allies in quitting the government. Yesterday afternoon he was reportedly offered the job of Brexit Secretary following Dominic Raab’s shock resignation, but turned it down, further fuelling speculation he was considering exiting the Cabinet altogether.
But sources close to the Minister confirmed minutes ago he would be staying at Defra. “Michael is staying at Defra,” a source close to Gove told reporters. “He thinks it is important to continue working with Cabinet colleagues to ensure the best outcome for the country.”
The news will likely bring a sigh of relief for many in the green economy, who feared the arrival of a new minister could have plunged the department into chaos at a crucial time as it wrestles with Brexit planning, the passage of the Environment and Agriculture Bills, and the imminent Waste and Resources Action Plan.
Amy Mount, head of the Greener UK unit at think tank Green Alliance, said his decision to stay on was good news.
“Gove has brought admirable environmental leadership to Defra,” she wrote on Twitter. “Switching Secretary of State at this stage would have been quite a challenge to Defra’s vital work on leaving our environment in a better state and preparing for all Brexit outcomes.” This is good news. Gove has brought admirable environmental leadership to Defra. Switching Secretary of State at this stage would have been quite a challenge to Defra’s vital work on leaving our environment in a better state & preparing for all Brexit outcomes.
Gove has surprised many environmental campaigners and green businesses with his high profile push to raise the profile of environmental issues and deliver a ‘Green Brexit’ programme that would overhaul farming subsidies, introduce a new environmental watchdog, and deliver ambitious new green targets. Speaking on an LBC phone-in earlier this morning, Prime Minister Theresa May said Gove was doing a “really important job” as Environment Secretary. “Often people don’t think about how individual government departments are having to prepare for leaving the EU,” she said. “Actually, Michael’s department is the one that has, in terms of legislation, probably more than anybody else. He’s been doing a great job and particularly on the fishing industry.”