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New environment minister announced

Michael Gove has left his position as secretary of state at Defra to take up a role more closely tied to Brexit under Boris Johnson’s new cabinet.

Gove, who had been in position for two years, is now the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and will be close to the Brexit negotiations.

He has been replaced by Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet and a former secretary of state for Northern Ireland.

Gove has largely been credited for refocusing Defra on environmental issues and engaging with the agroecological side of farming, as well as large-scale and conventional.

Theresa Villiers
Theresa Villiers, new environment minister. Image Andy Thornley.

He has announced several green-focused initiatives, including plans to simplify recycling, a new £15 million fund to tackle food waste, and spoken about the need for a ‘Green Brexit’.

Environmental groups have voiced concern about losing momentum around green issues in the event of Gove’s departure. The long-awaited Environment Bill, alongside the Agriculture Bill, are currently making their way through parliament amid delays caused by Brexit talks.

Villiers’ past voting record, according to public watchdog site They Work for Us, includes votes for and against measures to prevent climate change; against financial incentives for low carbon energy generation; for the badger cull to tackle TB; and for higher taxes on plane fares.

A Brexiteer like Gove, Villiers campaigned for Leave ahead of the referendum to leave the EU.

Writing on Facebook after the announcement, Villiers said: “I have championed a number of the issues covered by the department, including animal welfare and improving air quality.

“My new responsibilities will therefore complement many of my local campaigns in my constituency, such as protecting our green spaces.”

One of Villiers' priority jobs will be negotiating on behalf of the agriculture and food industries during Brexit. She also joins just weeks after the UK declared a climate emergency and ahead of the UK's co-hosting the next international climate talks, COP26. 

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