Pro-Brexit MP George Eustice is back as a minister at Defra after quitting the department earlier this year over Brexit concerns.
Mr Eustice, MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, resigned from his ministerial role in February over Theresa May’s decision to allow MPs to have a vote to extend Article 50 and delay Brexit.
In his resignation letter at the time, the Vote Leave supporter said allowing the EU to dictate the terms of the UK withdrawal and to request an extension would be the “final humiliation for our country”.
Number 10 confirmed on Twitter (@HMGDepartments) on Friday morning (26 July) that Mr Eustice had been appointed as minister of state at Defra. This followed earlier confirmation that Theresa Villiers had replaced Michael Gove as Defra secretary.
— Defra UK (@DefraGovUK) July 25, 2019
Mr Eustice replaces Robert Goodwill, the MP for Scarborough and Whitby, who had been in the role since 5 March. Meanwhile, Thérèse Coffey has been promoted to minister of state at Defra, having previously been parliamentary under-secretary of state.
Lord Gardiner and David Rutley will both continue in their respective roles as under-secretaries of state.
A former farmer, Mr Eustice’s brief will include farming and fisheries policy. He will help develop the upcoming Agriculture Bill and Fisheries Bill, as well as Defra emergency planning work in the event of a no-deal.
Last month, Mr Eustice argued that rare breeds of livestock, such as the British Lop pig, were a public good which should qualify for support under the new Agriculture Bill.
He was speaking at the launch of a new Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) campaign to save the British Lop.
— Christopher Price (@RareBreedChris) July 25, 2019
In general, farmers and industry leaders have welcomed his reappointment at Defra.
Pro-Brexit Derbyshire farmer Michael Seals tweeted: “Good news. The A team have arrived in Defra. Eustice is back to support Villiers and ensure farming is ready for any outcome.”
But amid increasing concerns about a no-deal Brexit, the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats’ rural team tweeted that re-appointing “lifelong Eurosceptic” Mr Eustice was “very bad news for farming and rural communities”.
Farmers for Britain
In 2016, Mr Eustice headed up the pro-Brexit Farmers for Britain campaign with a pledge that the UK Treasury would be able to maintain farm support levels to “at the least the same level” after Brexit.
But it has since emerged that the government wants to phase out direct payments from 2021 over a seven-year transition period.
They will be replaced by a system of payments for public goods. However, it is unclear whether the Treasury will match the £3bn of funding farmers currently receive each year under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.
Mr Eustice was previously minister of state at Defra from May 2015 to February 2019. He was elected as the Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth in 2010.
His family still run a fruit farm, restaurant and farm shop in Cornwall where they also have a herd of South Devon cattle and the country’s oldest herd of British Lops.
The family have a keen interest in educating children about farming and open their farm to 3,000 schoolchildren a year.