Emmanuel Macron suffered a major blow to his authority and green credentials on Tuesday as his popular environment minister resigned live on radio – without informing the French president beforehand.
Nicolas Hulot, a TV celebrity and one of the most respected members of the cabinet among the public, announced the news on France Inter radio, taking both his interviewers and government colleagues by surprise.
“I am taking the decision to leave the government,” Hulot said, explaining he felt “all alone” on environmental issues in a government committed to the same economic model “that is the cause of all the problems”.
“I hope my departure will trigger deep soul-searching by our society on the realities of our world.”
A government spokesman ripped into Hulot for not taking “the most basic of courtesies” to inform Macron or the prime minister before quitting – an unprecedented move for a French minister, analysts said.
But Macron responded that Hulot was “a free man” and he respected his decision.
“I hope I will be able to count on his commitment in another form,” Macron said on a trip to Copenhagen.
Hulot, 63, was lured into government last year by Macron but has repeatedly clashed with his cabinet colleagues over policy.
“We’re taking little steps and France is doing a lot more than other countries, but are little steps enough? The answer is no,” he added, after months of speculation over his role in government.
Hulot’s exit also risks undercutting Macron’s credentials as a leading campaigner internationally against climate change that has seen him adopt the catchphrase “Make our planet great again”.