George Eustice quits as farming minister

Eustice leaves government citing May’s announcement that MPs will have a vote to delay Brexit in March

Eustice indicated his departure from the government was to be free to participate in the parliamentary Brexit debates, but also against May’s decision to offer a vote to MPs to extend Article 50 if they cannot agree on a Brexit deal; something which Eustice described as potentially being “the final humiliation of our country”.

In his resignation letter he wrote: “I have stuck with the government through a series of rather undignified retreats. However, I fear that developments this week will lead to a sequence of events culminating in the EU dictating the terms of any extension requested and the final humiliation of our country.”

He said he leaves government with “tremendous sadness” praising Defra’s “phenomenal expertise”.

“More than any other government department, has embraced the opportunities posed by our exit from the EU. I have particularly welcomed the chance to craft two new Bills on farming and fisheries, which are the first for half a century, as we have prepared the ground to restore self-government in this country,” Eustice said.

The former minister becomes the 14th member of May’s government to quit over Brexit, having worked in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for the past five years.

A long-time Eurosceptic, in 1999 he ran for election as a UKIP candidate before joining the Tories as David Cameron’s press secretary.

Eustice recently launched the new Agricultural Bill alongside Defra secretary Michael Gove, described by former Labour MP Angela Smith as the “biggest change in agricultural policy in 70 years”.

Following his departure, fellow conservative MP Ben Goldsmith said Eustice was “one of the most principled politicians I have known”.

Ex-Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: “It is odd that the Minster has resigned complaining about Brexit delays when his department has delayed new laws on agriculture and fisheries post-Brexit.

“But this clearly shows the Conservative Government is still hopelessly divided and that Theresa May’s empty promises aren’t helping. That’s why we need to hand the decision back to the public, with an option to stay in the EU.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford tweeted: “Another day another resignation from the UK government. Any illusion to strong and stable ended before it began but this is beyond parody.”