James Forsyth

Michael Gove will not resign from DEFRA

Michael Gove will not resign from DEFRA
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Michael Gove is staying as DEFRA Secretary. Yesterday, Theresa May offered him the job of Brexit Secretary. Gove said that he could only do that job if he was given the opportunity to pursue his own course. May said that she wanted the Brexit Secretary to stay on the exact same course she had plotted. So, Gove turned down the job. May, though, asked him to stay as DEFRA Secretary and Gove has now decided to do so.

So, why is he staying? Well, I understand that he didn’t see what would be achieved by going. It might doom this deal, but there would be nothing to put in its place. He felt it would be a nihilistic act, not a constructive one. With fewer and fewer Brexiteers around the Cabinet table, government policy might drift even further with more softening to try and gain support from opposition parties.

Gove’s decision to stay doesn’t mean that he has no breaking point. But for the moment, he thinks it is better to stay inside government and try and influence policy that way.

That another major Brexiteer is not going to quit will be a major relief to Downing Street. His departure would have further weakened May’s position and made it even harder to see how this deal could make it through the Commons.

Number 10 will hope that Gove staying gives them some breathing space and a chance to stabilise the situation. But with Cabinet Ministers resigned to a confidence vote in the coming days, the drama is far from over yet.