Farmers 'frustrated' to see new Defra appointment

Theresa Villiers fresh appointment comes during a politically uncertain period for farmers (Photo: NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
Theresa Villiers fresh appointment comes during a politically uncertain period for farmers (Photo: NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Farmers have highlighted how they are 'frustrated' to see a new face at the top of Defra during a 'critical time' for the industry.

Theresa Villiers was announced the new Defra Secretary on Wednesday (24 July) replacing Michael Gove who left the role for a promotion.

Mr Gove, who was appointed the post on 11 June 2017, has been appointed as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster following Boris Johnson's cabinet reshuffle.

Some farmers hold concerns that the fresh appointment comes during a politically uncertain period regarding the fact that a no-deal Brexit seems more likely than ever.



The new Prime Minister promised to defy “the doubters, the doomsters and the gloomsters” by completing Brexit by 31 October, deal or no-deal.

But for 'reasons of continuity at such a difficult time', the National Sheep Association (NSA) said it would have preferred for Mr Gove to have remained Defra Secretary.



The sheep sector has major concerns that abruptly leaving the European Union without a deal is placing it in 'unjustifiable danger'.

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, said: “With Boris Johnson so new to the top job and Theresa Villiers taking on a brand new and very complex role at Defra, the absolute priority for both of them must be to ensure an orderly exit from the EU and continue the work to ensure protection is in place for the sheep sector in the worst case scenario of a no-deal.”

The organisation wrote to Mr Johnson as soon as he was confirmed at Prime Minister, highlighting the position of the sector as a major exporter to the EU.

British sheep farmers currently export some 35% of sheepmeat, with around 96% of that going to EU markets.

The letter outlined where such discussions were up to and the NSA position that protection needs to be 'urgently confirmed' as farmers are already entering into the trading period that will go up to and beyond the 31st October Brexit deadline.

Mr Stocker said: “NSA met with Ms Villiers a few months ago, in response to our concerns about her extreme stance on animal welfare.

“We are looking forward to meeting her again soon to ensure she is as well informed as possible and can continue the work being done within Defra on a number of topics, including the priority issue of Brexit.



“We are keeping our fingers crossed that Robert Goodwill, Farming Minister, stays in his post. While reasonably new to the role, Mr Goodwill will represent some continuity at this time of huge upheaval,” he said.