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Farmers braced for upheaval as Gove bids to become Prime Minister

Farmers are bracing themselves for a period of great upheaval, with Defra Secretary Michael Gove poised to leave the department and the threat of a no-deal Brexit looming larger than ever.

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Farmers braced for upheaval as Gove bids to become Prime Minister

Mr Gove made the decision to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party after a dramatic week which saw the Prime Minister finally agree to step down on June 7, making it unlikely he will stay at Defra even if he loses out on the top job.

 

As of May 29, he was one of eleven candidates who have thrown their hats into the ring to become Prime Minister, with several of the top contenders, including Boris Johnson, openly supporting the idea of leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement.

 

The choice of leader is likely to be strongly influenced by the results of the European elections, which were devastating for the Tories as their voters turned in droves to the Brexit Party.

 

The Labour Party also suffered heavy losses, while the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, the SNP and Plaid Cymru made gains.


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While the NFU thanked Mrs May for her efforts and willingness to engage with the agricultural sector, the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) hit out at her leadership style.

 

A spokesman said: “The FUW has had many meetings with the outgoing PM in the last couple of years, but did not find them at all productive.

 

“There was a remoteness which came from her focus on a single-minded agenda of Brexit means Brexit. Mrs May was not prepared to engage.

 

“A future PM must be prepared to take stock, to deliver an outcome which minimises any damage to the country.

 

“This will take time and also require greater empathy and consensus building than we have seen of late.”

As Michael Gove launches his bid for Number 10, we ask farmers what they think

Olly Harrison, arable farmer from Merseyside: “I think he should stay put. He has started something and he needs to finish it. We will be put back two years with someone new in charge.

 

“I also do not think he has the charisma to be Prime Minister. If he let Natural England roll over for Chris Packham and Mark Avery, what is he going to do in Europe?

 

“And do not get me started on how he has failed to sort out the dysfunction at the Rural Payments Agency.

 

“I do not trust him.”

 

James Small, mixed livestock farmer from Somerset: “I am not at all surprised he is standing. It was probably the most unsurprising news I received that week – everyone could see his ambition.

 

“I think he would be capable of the position in Number 10, but I hope he would take some of the things he has learned in Defra and raise food and farming’s profile across all of Government.

 

“I have been concerned for many years about the churn of Ministers entering Defra. It is a challenge, because when a Secretary of State comes in, they have new ideas and we have to re-explain things.

 

“It is disappointing Defra has so many Ministers when compared to other main Government departments.”

 

Joe Stanley, arable and beef farmer from Leicestershire: “It is unsurprising to see him stand – this is the last opportunity any of that generation of the party will have to take the top job.

 

“Of all the plausible winners, he is the one I would most like to see win. Despite his manifest failing in supporting Brexit, his speeches to the NFU and Oxford Farming Conferences illustrate he knows no-deal would be disastrous.

 

“His time at Defra can only stand us in good stead were he to be PM, and he would be in a position to follow through on promises he previously claimed were outside his control on import standards and multi-annual funding.

 

“Anyone is better than Boris Johnson, Esther McVey or Andrea Leadsom, but I am concerned if someone like Zac Goldsmith gets into Defra. That would be the end. Trouble is, Gove might put him there.”

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