Prime Minister Boris Johnson has replaced both the Business and Environment secretaries in his first major reshuffle since becoming prime minister. Chancellor Sajid Javid has also resigned.

Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers has been replaced by former junior environment minister, George Eustice, while business and energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom has been replaced by International Development Secretary Alok Sharma, who has also been appointed COP26 President.

Commenting on losing her new job so quickly Villiers said: “I am deeply grateful for having been given the opportunity to serve twice at the highest level of Government, first as Northern Ireland Secretary and then as Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I tackled both roles with passion, commitment and huge amounts of hard work.”

Villiers’ replacement George Eustice, the MP for Camborne and Redruth, was the minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Farming before he resigned in 2019 over Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Eustice does have some experience in environment having served former Prime Minister David Cameron’s as adviser on energy and environment.

Leadsom’s successor Alok Sharma, MP for reading West, was International Development Secretary from July 2019 before being appointed to BEIS secretary this week. Previously, Sharma served as a housing minister and employment minister. As a former financial advisor, Sharma has some professional experience in business management but not in energy, which is a major part of his new brief at BEIS.

Sharma has also been appointed president of the forthcoming COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, which many observers say is a job in itself. Mohamed Adow, director of energy and climate at thinktank Power Shift Africa, told the Guardian newspaper; “It’s a relief to finally have a Cop president in post. But now the hard work must start. For such a crucial summit it’s worrying that Alok Sharma takes up the reins with only nine months to go. He will need all the resources of government and the diplomatic service to ensure the UK Cop is not a failure.

Media headlines will focus on the surprising resignation of Chancellor Sajid Javid, who told the BBC he could only stay in post if he sacked his team of advisors. Mr Javid said his advisers had worked "incredibly hard" and he could not agree to them being replaced. "I felt I was left with no option but to resign," he said, adding that his replacement, Mr Sunak and the rest of the government, retained his "full support".

Javid was just four weeks away from delivering his spring budget statement, in which he had confirmed environmental spending would be a priority, alongside investment in public services including funding for environment initiatives such as £9.2bn for better insulation for schools and hospitals.

Javid has been replaced as chancellor by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak, who has been an MP for just five years and has served just seven months as a junior housing minister. Sunak is a former investment banker and hedge fund manager and, according to Wikipedia, is the fastest-rising politician to hold an Office of State in British political history.

Last reviewed 14 February 2020