George Eustice sidesteps claims he is ‘due for the chop’

Environment Secretary George Eustice defended the work he has done in the role, amid taunts from his Labour shadow that he is facing the sack.

Mr Eustice, the MP for Camborne and Redruth, holds one of the most significant Cabinet posts so far as the farmers and fishermen of the Westcountry are concerned.

But there has been speculation that his job could be in jeopardy when Prime Minister Boris Johnson next shuffles his top team.

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Among those said to be angling for a replacement at Defra is the PM’s wife, Carrie, an animal welfare campaigner who allegedly accused Mr Eustice of being too supportive of farmers.

Mr Eustice, who is from a Cornish farming family, yesterday sidestepped questions over his future in the Cabinet, amid reports he is “due for the chop” given the Prime Minister is planning a reshuffle.

Labour’s Luke Pollard, the party’s environment spokesman and the MP for Devonport and Sutton, said Mr Eustice risks being remembered as the man who “betrayed our fishing industry” with Brexit and “betrayed” UK farmers over a trade deal with Australia.

In the lead-up to the UK-Australia deal being agreed, a split in the Cabinet appeared between International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Mr Eustice, who had concerns about the impact on farmers.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Pollard – currently leading a Labour project to win back rural voters – criticised Mr Eustice’s record.
“I hope today isn’t the Secretary of State’s last Defra questions because of the rumours from Downing Street that he’s due for the chop,” Mr Pollard said.

“But if it were to be true, how will the Secretary of State be spending his next few weeks ensuring that he’s not remembered as the Secretary of State who betrayed our fishing industry and rolled over and betrayed our farmers over an Australian trade deal?”

Mr Eustice replied: “Well, ministers never comment on reshuffle speculation – particularly when it’s about one’s self.

“But, in the context of fishing we have recently got an agreement with the EU on how to approach shared stocks for the remainder of this year.

“We have got an increase in quota of around 25% – 15% of that coming this year – and we’ve deployed that to actually almost double the fishing opportunities for our inshore fleet in this year.”

Pro-Brexit Mr Eustice was appointed Environment Secretary in February 2020, having previously been a junior minister in the department.

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