Cabinet audit: What does the appointment of Theresa Villiers as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet since 2005, served both as transport minister and Northern Ireland secretary under David Cameron. She has benefited from the disastrous performance of her successor but one, Karen Bradley, overshadowing negative views of her time in the latter role. Plus, she’s a genuine Leaver, as one of the six cabinet ministers to support Brexit during the EU referendum campaign.

Villiers place at a department that will be crucial to delivering Brexit with or without a deal is telling of Johnson’s intentions – she is a cheerleader for no deal, and has commented that the UK could flourish by trading on WTO terms.

She did, however, table a debate in 2017 on animal welfare in farming, and wishes to keep animal welfare standards at the same level at least to what we have within the EU. Can she maintain this position if we leave without a deal?

That Michael Gove made what was once a rather unglamorous department into a place where a minister can enact real change, set the agenda and attract headlines suggests Villiers’ role will be a relatively high-profile one. Climate change is also now higher up the public agenda. She may, however, struggle to gain such traction in the role as her predecessor, who is loved by many in the media for reasons other than his environmental ideas.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.

She co-hosts the New Statesman podcast, discussing the latest in UK politics.

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