The 42-year-old took to Twitter this evening to break his silence after The Sun revealed he will not return to I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! for 2018 – and has agreed to postpone next year’s Saturday Night Takeaway until 2020.
Ant, who was pictured with her new girlfriend Anne-Marie Corbett over the weekend, wrote: "Thank you for all the messages of support. Ax"
The hugely popular star has been undergoing rehab treatment since March after a relapse into alcohol addiction which saw him convicted of drink driving.
Speculation has been rife since then over when he will return to screens, with many fans hoping he would be ready in time to fly to the jungle alongside co-star Dec Donnelly.
But in an exclusive statement to The Sun, the 42-year-old today announced he will be off until at least 2019 – also ruling himself out of next year’s series of Takeaway because pre-production work would need to begin imminently.
He said: “My recovery is going very well and for that to continue having spoken to Dec and ITV, I have made the decision to take the rest of the year off.
“I’d like to thank both Dec and ITV for their continued support and I look forward to getting back to work in the new year.”
The Sun can confirm best pal Dec, also 42, will still head to Australia to front I’m A Celebrity without his partner for the first time, but a decision has not yet been taken over whether he will host the programme single-handedly or with a guest co-host.
Dec explained: “Whilst I am obviously sad at the thought of being without my best friend in Australia this year, I am proud of the work Ant has been doing privately and I am fully supportive of his decision.
“I’m looking forward to us both being reunited on screen in 2019.”
As a result the duo and ITV have agreed Saturday Night Takeaway, one of the broadcaster’s most popular shows, will now not return to screens until February 2020.
Confirming the news, the presenters insisted they did not want to compromise the quality of the show and therefore felt it was better to rest the series next year – promising it would come back bigger and better than ever.
A source explained: “Takeaway airs in February, but many viewers may not realise that the filming for the sketches and the preparation begins six months earlier – which is too soon for Ant.
“Sadly that means they have had to tell the production team today that they’re going to have to push the next run back until the following year.
“It’s a show they’re hugely passionate about personally and they’re extremely close to the team involved too – but everyone understands that this is a decision which hasn’t been taken lightly and are supportive. They all wish him the very best.”
Insiders hope that he will now return to screens in time for next year’s Britain’s Got Talent – but insist they will still not put any pressure on him to race back until he is fully ready.
ITV Director of Television Kevin Lygo said: "ITV is completely supportive of Ant taking as much time as he needs in his recovery and of this mutual decision to rest Takeaway in 2019.
“Ant is clearly making good progress and we wish him all the very best and look forward to him returning to ITV next year.
“An announcement on I'm A Celebrity plans will be made in due course.”
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