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‘We must be ready to face down the EU’ – George Eustice resigns over Brexit delay

Farming Minister George Eustice said if the position of parliament was now that it refused to leave the EU without an agreement, ‘then we are somewhat stuck’.

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‘We must be ready to face down the EU here and now’ – George Eustice resigns over Brexit delay

Farming Minster George Eustice has quit the Government after Prime Minister Theresa May promised to allow MPs a vote on delaying Brexit if her deal is rejected.

The Cornish MP has served almost four years in the role at Defra.

In a letter to the Prime Minister today (February 28), Mr Eustice said if the position of parliament now was that it refused to leave the EU without an agreement, ‘then we are somewhat stuck’.

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He said: “Since parliament is now in direct control of events, I want to be free to participate in the critical debate that will take place in the weeks ahead.

“I have stuck with the Government through a series of rather undignified retreats. However, 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.”

Mr Eustice, who is a monthly contributor to Farmers Guardian’s opinion column, was appointed Minister of State at Defra on May 11 2015 and survived the Cabinet reshuffle the following year.

He said Defra had ‘phenomenal expertise’ and more than any other Government department had ‘embraced the opportunities posed by our exit from the EU’.

His family are said to run the country’s oldest herd of rare breed British Lop pigs.

 

Industry reaction - ‘A major disappointment’

Speaking about Mr Eustice’s resignation, Farmers’ Union of Wales president Glyn Roberts said it was ‘a major disappointment’.

 

He said: “Here was a Minister who understood farming, not just on paper but true, real-life farming. His resignation is a serious loss to all involved in agriculture at such a critical time.”

 

CLA president Tim Breitmeyer added: “We are saddened to hear of George Eustice’s decision to resign as Farming Minister.

 

“He has held the position since 2015, and has maintained a strong voice on behalf of the farming industry during that time.

 

“His farming background and first-hand knowledge and experience have been invaluable in the many areas of his brief. The farming community has lost a key ally at this critical time for the industry, which faces significant uncertainty and change.”

 

Rob Percival, head of food policy at the Soil Association, said Mr Eustice helped re-frame agricultural policy, bringing soil ‘firmly onto the policy agenda’.

 

He said his resignation would ‘undoubtedly be of concern for UK farmers’.

 

“The government must now move quickly to appoint a new minister who can act as an effective advocate for the sector throughout the Brexit process, and who can secure Eustice’s legacy, pushing forward the policy agenda to secure a healthier and more sustainable farming sector,” Mr Percival said.

 

The National Sheep Association said it was ‘anxious to see a new minister appointed quickly to help provide farming with the political stability it needs’.

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