In one of his first major speeches since returning to the cabinet as Environment Secretary, Gove has drawn on his inspiration as an “environmentalist first” to pledge to reform the common agricultural policy (CAP) to a system built on “rigorous scientific analysis”.

“Leaving the EU gives us a once in a lifetime opportunity to reform how we manage agriculture and fisheries, how we care for our land, our rivers and our seas, how we recast our ambition for our country’s environment, and the planet,” Gove said. “In short, it means delivering a green Brexit.”

One of the driving forces of the Brexit campaign, Gove was re-introduced to the cabinet in June after being axed by Prime Minister Theresa May as part of a government reshuffle.

His new role as Environment Secretary will see him deliver and retain legislation on agriculture, land use, biodiversity, marine conservation, fisheries, pesticide licensing, animal welfare, waste, water purity and air quality amongst other factors.

Gove used his speech at WWF’s Living Planet Centre to claim that the UK can “develop global gold standard policies” on environmental management. Gove’s belief is built on the reformation of CAP, which he claimed “puts resources in the hands of the already wealthy, and encourages patterns of land use which are wasteful of natural resources”.


Gove also pledged to introduce new legislation this year to officially ban the sale and manufacture of microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products. It forms the cornerstone of an overarching commitment to protect waterways from plastic pollution.

In fact,  new figures published today have revealed that more than nine billion fewer plastic bags have been used in the UK since the 5p charge was introduced, an 83% reduction.

“Last year the government launched a consultation on banning microbeads in personal care products, which have such a devastating effect on marine life,” Gove said. “We are responding to that consultation today and we will introduce legislation to implement that ban later this year.”

Gove’s governance

Research suggests that replacing CAP could generate more than the £400m available to farmers through government agri-environment schemes, with the National Trust has calling for a complete reform of the British farm subsidy system.

The EU pays British farmers up to £3bn a year, of which around £600m is paid to farmers to protect the environment. Gove has suggested that new policies will mean that farmers will have to earn subsidies by agreeing on certain aspects regarding environmental protection.

Commenting ahead of the speech, Friends of the Earth’s chief executive Craig Bennet said: “With all the evidence suggesting that leaving the EU will be a disaster for our environment, Michael Gove must deliver a package of strong environmental regulations if he wants to make a ‘green Brexit’ a reality.

“The Environment Secretary has two key opportunities in the near future to boost confidence in his green credentials. He must seize them by urgently delivering a tough package of measures to clean up the UK’s illegally polluted air, and backing moves for current EU restrictions on bee-harming pesticides to be extended to all crops. The British public are overwhelmingly in favour of keeping or strengthening EU rules that protect our natural environment – Mr Gove must not let them down.”

Speaking shortly after the Government published the Repeal Bill last week, which will convert all existing EU regulations into UK law following Brexit, Gove claimed that the UK now has a “unique challenge” to ameliorate the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and CAP.

Gove said that Defra will attempt to replace the CFP – which sets quotas for how much fish different nations can catch – with a framework that “puts marine conservation at the heart of what we do”. For the CAP, he noted that the rewards system for compliance was his preferred substitute.

Matt Mace

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