Michael Gove will stay in his job as Environment Secretary, after widespread rumours that he would resign from his cabinet post over the government’s Brexit deal.
Mr Gove has opted to remain at Defra, having considered his position in the government and whether to back the Prime Minister’s proposals for a deal over the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
It had looked as if Gove may step down due to concerns over the Prime Minister’s draft agreement with the EU.
The terms of Mrs May’s deal have led to the resignation of a string of ministers, including the Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, with the former describing the proposed agreement with the EU as being ‘fatally flawed’.
Yesterday, Gove reportedly turned down an offer from the Prime Minister to take over Raab’s role at DExEU, and had been ‘considering his position’ in the cabinet overnight, according to reports.
However, speaking to journalists outside Defra’s offices in Westminster this morning, Mr Gove – who campaigned for the UK to leave the EU during the Referendum – said he would remain in the post to ‘ensure the best future for Britain’.
He said: “I have had a series of meetings with my colleagues here in Defra, making sure we have the right policies on the environment, on farming and fisheries for the future.
“I’m also looking forward to continuing to work with all my government colleagues and all my colleagues in parliament in order to make sure that we get the best future for Britain.
“I think it’s absolutely vital that we focus on getting the right deal in the future and making sure that in the areas that matter so much to the British people we can get the right outcome.â€?
Although initially a surprise choice for the Defra role when appointed to replace Andrea Leadsom in June 2017, Mr Gove’s 17 months in charge of the Department have seen a number of policy developments, particularly around air quality, with a final version of the government’s Clean Air Strategy expected in the coming weeks.
Despite criticism from some corners over a lack of detail or sufficient resources for local authorities to address air pollution in the strategy – Mr Gove’s focus on the issue within the Defra post has been viewed largely as positive.
And, his senior status within the government is thought to have helped raise the profile of environmental issues at cabinet level, in a post that has often been seen as being one of the more fringe appointments in government.
However, despite Mr Gove’s decision not to step down offering a semblance of stability for Theresa May, whose position had been looking increasingly unsteady in recent days, a leadership challenge from within the Conservative Party has been strongly rumoured, and could throw the government into further turmoil.
48 Conservative MPs are required to submit notices of no-confidence in the leader to trigger a vote from MPs, and many are reporting to have done so.