Theresa Villiers appointed new Defra Secretary

(Photo: NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
(Photo: NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Theresa Villiers has been announced as the new Defra Secretary as Michael Gove leaves the role for a promotion following a cabinet reshuffle.

Boris Johnson has made radical changes to his front-bench team following his appointment as the UK's new Prime Minister on Wednesday (24 July).

Michael Gove, who was appointed environment secretary on 11 June 2017, has now been appointed as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

MP for Chipping Barnet and arch Brexiteer, Ms Villiers was the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from 2012 to 2016.

Growing up in North London, she was educated at the independent Francis Holland School.

She gained a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree with first-class honours in 1990 from the University of Bristol, and a year later the postgraduate degree of Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) from Jesus College, Oxford.

For Ms Villiers, Defra faces some of the toughest challenges of any government department as the October 31st Brexit date looms.

She has argued for a no-deal Brexit and is also a strong advocate of animal welfare, having spoken out on the issue of live exports and supporting the animal welfare campaign ‘end the cage’.

NFU President Minette Batters said she’s looking forward to working closely Ms Villiers to help forge the future of farming and food production.

She said central to that will be to ensure the UK leaves the EU in a 'smooth and orderly manner', which includes frictionless trade with the EU.

Mrs Batters said: “I look forward to working with the new Secretary of State to showcase the incredibly high standards to which British farmers deliver food for the nation, alongside caring for our animals and the countryside.

“I invite Ms Villiers to join me on my farm so she can see first-hand the work that goes in to producing the country’s food and its potential for the future.”

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) said it is 'delighted to welcome' Ms Villiers as the new Defra Secretary, but warned that farmers have 'grave concerns' over her no-deal stance.

“We look forward to working with her to grow our rural economy, support businesses, create jobs, mitigate climate change, improve biodiversity and provide high quality food to the country and beyond.

“We’ve noted Ms Villiers’ recent comments on a no deal Brexit and resulting WTO tariffs, but we know there are many farmers across the country with grave concerns.

“Currently 60% of our food exports go to the EU. Were draconian tariffs put in place, world class British produce would become uncompetitive in our largest market overnight.”

Before her appointment, the National Sheep Association (NSA) warned the Prime Minister of moving Michael Gove away from Defra.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker said: “At such a fragile time, the last thing our industry needs is a change in our Secretary of State or Ministers, but if they must come then we hope the new Prime Minister will carefully consider who he appoints.

“We need a Defra team with an understanding of agriculture and its role in the countryside.”