Michael Gove tears into Philip Hammond after Lords defeat on 'Green Brexit'

Posted On: 
23rd May 2018

Cabinet splits have burst into the open once again as Michael Gove blamed Philip Hammond for an "entirely predictable" Lords defeat over plans for a 'Green Brexit'.

The Environment Secretary blamed the Chancellor for defeats he said would leave "the Government's environmental credibility further undermined".

In a leaked letter to Cabinet colleagues, the Environment Secretary pointed the finger at the Treasury for a bruising defeat in the upper chamber last week which demanded the Government back EU environmental standards after Brexit.

Mr Hammond reportedly blocked proposals to give Mr Gove's new post-Brexit environmental watchdog the ability to slap fines on councils and government departments for failing to curb waste and pollution, fearing that the move would tie up the economy in extra red tape.

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But, in a letter passed to The Telegraph, the Environment Secretary fumed: "As I explained at Cabinet on Tuesday, the short-sightedness of the Treasury has now led to an entirely predictable and avoidable defeat on the EU Withdrawal Bill and inflicted a damaging blow to the Government’s environmental credentials."

In an intervention which reportedly earned a rebuke from Theresa May, Mr Gove told colleagues that he believed the defeats would leave "the Government's environmental credibility further undermined", and openly expressed his hostility to Mr Hammond's Treasury.

"Defra argued that if we were to deliver the Government’s promises our proposals must at the very least replicate the status quo - specifically the enforcement powers of the European Commission and maintenance of the principles in legislation," he said.

"More than that, we argued that the reality of the parliamentary arithmetic meant we would be defeated if we chose to publish a weak consultation. Defra’s arguments were not accepted as a result of Treasury opposition."

Mr Hammond reportedly felt that the Environment Secretary's plans would pile excessive regulatory burdens on firms as the Treasury pushes to boost business competitiveness in face of Brexit.

A Treasury source meanwhile pushed back at Mr Gove's characterisation of events, telling the paper: "It is clearly wrong to blame the Treasury for this. Philip has worked closely with Michael to support the Government's environmental agenda, including on plans for a plastic waste tax."

The Lords defeat over environmental standards was one of 15 suffered by the Government as its flagship Brexit bill made its way through the upper chambers. Peers voted by a majority of 294 to 244 in favour of the push to maintain EU regulations after Brexit, and the bill will now go back to the Commons for consideration.