Theresa May’s appointment of Michael Gove as head of the environment and farming ministry, Defra, is a disaster in the making. He is likely to sweep away many of the regulations that protect the environment and biodiversity.
Politically, we live in curious times with no certainty that the government will be stable or strong enough to survive the Brexit process. Theresa May has reappointed most of her pre-election cabinet, but she moved Andrea Leadsom from Defra to become Leader of the House of Commons. Michael Gove has been brought back to cabinet as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We have gone from a barely noticed Defra Secretary to one that will crave attention by swinging a wrecking ball through environmental regulation.
Michael Gove has developed a reputation for a ‘slash and burn’ style of management. When heading up the education department, he tried to get climate change taken off the national curriculum. He is a ferocious opponent of the Common Agricultural Policy, which has policies designed to protect the environment and rural areas. He has railed against the EU Habitats Directive, which protects areas like the Clun Valley from polluting development.
We are at a critical juncture for Britain’s environment. We have relied heavily on Europe to police our actions and drive up our standards. Now we must take these over. EU environmental rules are due to be brought into UK law under the Great Repeal Bill. But the detailed regulations are what will count. Michael Gove has made it clear that he wants to slash EU regulation and that means the environment will suffer.
Gove will take charge of the 25-year plan for the environment, due to be published as part of the routemap for Brexit. I fear that instead of this being a strong vision for an environmentally rich and low carbon future, the plan will sacrifice our natural resources and biodiversity to gain a short-term boost for the economy.
For a more detailed commentary on Michael Gove’s appointment as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and his track record on the environment, see my article over on Lib Dem Voice.