Farming Minister George Eustice resigns over Brexit delay

Farming Minister George Eustice has resigned in protest at the decision by Prime Minister Theresa May to allow MPs a vote on delaying Brexit if her deal is rejected.

The Cornish MP said he was quitting with ‘tremendous sadness’ because he wanted to be ‘free to participate in the critical debate that will take place in the weeks ahead’.

Mr Eustice, who had been in the role since May 2015, was the leading figure in the Leave farming campaign prior to the 2016 EU Referendum, arguing that farmers would be better off freed from the grip of Brussels regulation. Well known across the farming sector, he has become a noticeably less visible figure since the arrival of Michael Gove as Defra Secretary in 2017.

In his resignation letter, Mr Eustice, who stood as a UKIP candidate before becoming an MP, said he would vote for the Prime Minister’s Brexit Agreement when it comes back to Parliament next month. But he said he feared the PM’s offer of votes on delaying Brexit could lead to the ‘final humiliation of our country’.

He said: “I fear that developments this week will lead to a sequence of events culminating in the EU dictating the terms of any extension requested and the final humiliation of our country. We cannot negotiate a successful Brexit unless we are prepared to walk through the door.”

Defra Secretary Michael Gove has responded to the resignation. He said: “So sorry to see George go. He has been a brilliant minister and will remain a dear friend. He leaves an outstanding legacy, with the Agriculture and Fisheries Bills setting domestic policy for the first time in nearly 50 years. He will be very much missed.”

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.