Gove appointment a ‘great win’ for food and drink

By Matt Atherton

- Last updated on GMT

Gove's appointment as DEFRA boss is a 'great win' for the sector (Flickr/Policy Exchange)
Gove's appointment as DEFRA boss is a 'great win' for the sector (Flickr/Policy Exchange)

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Michael Gove’s appointment as environment secretary is “a great win for the agri-supply chain”, says the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink (NSAFD) chairman Paul Wilkinson.

The former education secretary’s experience would be a major boost for the food and drink sector, Wilkinson told

“At last a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs ​[DEFRA] secretary that can add value,”​ said Wilkinson. “Heavyweight, experienced and intelligent.

“This feels like a great win for the agri-supply chain. I think the food industry has it all to play for now,”​ said Wilkinson, who is the chair of this year’s Food Manufacture Excellence Awards​ judging panel.

‘A positive addition’

The National Farmers Union (NFU) also said Gove’s experience would be a positive addition to the food and farming sector. It would be especially useful during the Brexit talks, which is due to begin on Monday (June 19).

In an open letter to the new environment secretary, NFU president Meurig Raymond said: “With farming arguably the sector most impacted by Brexit, NFU members need certainty as soon as possible that this government will make Brexit a success for British food and farming.

“With your experience in reforming policy environments we look forward to working with you to create a new wider policy framework that better delivers for British food and farming – and for our nation.”

Gove was appointed environment secretary on Sunday (June 11), during Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet reshuffle. His predecessor, Andrea Leadsom, was appointed leader of the House of Commons. It came after the Conservatives lost their overall majority in the House of Commons in last week’s general election.

Fall in parliamentary seats

The election result prompted May to start talks with the right-wing Democratic Union Party (DUP) to form a government. The food and drink sector might benefit from the Tory’s fall in parliamentary seats, Wilkinson said.

“Maybe the election result is actually good, compared with where we were pre-election,”​ said Wilkinson.

 “The prime minister’s power base has been constrained, the Scottish National Party neutered, some real feedback on voters’ issues. DUP can be moderating, but sensible.”

Meanwhile, the new government should re-think it’s Brexit strategy following the election results, said EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation. The number of lost Conservative seats showed the public didn’t want a hard Brexit, it added. See the box below for more information.

EEF urges ‘refocused Brexit talks’

EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler said: “The new government’s priorities must radically re-focus Brexit negotiations around trade, and close co-operation, ensuring a smooth exit from the EU. There are numerous ways of establishing a new relationship with the EU and, given we’ve just wasted a year, the government needs to move away from its previous rhetoric and start repairing relations with EU partners.

“This means putting access to the single market and a form of customs union at the heart of a revised strategy, and removing the shibboleths created around a hard Brexit, which businesses know would be highly damaging for Britain.”

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