Fern Britton has dismissed reports that she is quitting This Morning because of a rift with Phillip Schofield.

The 51-year-old presenter – who has announced she’s leaving the daytime show at the end of this series – said Phillip was ‘simply the best’ as she introduced Thursday’s programme.

In dismissing speculation surrounding her departure, she appeared to mouth an obscenity, which she said was ‘for our deaf viewers’.

“I realise people like to speculate, rather hurtfully, but the reason is 10 years is a long time on the show and I’m ready for a change,” she said. “I want to slow down a little and enjoy life a bit.”

Fern went on: “My immediate plan is to build a vegetable plot in the autumn and become a This Morning viewer cheering on whoever the lucky person is who will work with Phillip, because he is, after all, simply the best. So that’s the end of that.”

She then appeared to mouth the word “b******s” silently, before adding: “That’s for our deaf viewers.”

A number of reports suggested Fern was quitting because she was unhappy at being paid less and having a lower profile than Phillip.

Speaking on Thursday’s show, Phillip said: “Nobody will miss you more (than I will), let me say, but we do have four months to wreak havoc on the airwaves, so shall we start?”

Fern’s last appearance on This Morning will be on July 17.

William Hill have opened a book on who’ll replace Fern, with Ruth Langsford – who currently presents the show with husband Eamonn Holmes on Fridays – the favourite at evens.

Fiona Phillips is at 4/1, while Holly Willoughby is at 16/1.

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