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WATCH: Ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker blasts 'childish' Number 10 over Chequers briefings

3 min read

Steve Baker has accused Downing Street of using "childish nonsense" to pile pressure on Brexiteers, hours after he followed his boss David Davis in quitting the Government.

The ex-Brexit minister - who resigned overnight - said he had been left “furious” by a series of heavy-handed briefings from Number 10 ahead of last week’s crunch Chequers summit, which triggered the overnight walkout by Brexit Secretary Mr Davis.

Ministers were warned that replacements had been lined up for an emergency reshuffle, and journalists were told that resigning ministers would lose the use of their official cars - forcing them to take a taxi back to London from the Prime Minister's Buckinghamshire estate.

Mr Baker told the Daily Politics he had almost been pushed to resign over those briefings.

"I was furious at the childish nonsense being issued by Number 10," he said. "Absolutely unequal to the task at hand.

"Frankly, I was furious, I could have almost resigned over the childishness of that briefing.

"There was an untruth told about whether or not I had had promotion dangled in front of me. No such conversation was had. I checked with other colleagues and they had not had conversations about their ambitions tested for promotions."

The ex-minister - who exchanged cordial letters with the Prime Minister as he handed in his resignation - also hit out at the Government’s sidelining of his department as the crucial Brexit White Paper is drawn up.

"I don’t think it is too indiscrete to point out that what has happened is that we have all been blindsided by this policy," he said.

"We were preparing a White Paper that did not accord with what has been put to the Cabinet at Chequers.

"The White Paper we were working on reflected a series of speeches the Prime Minister made, and as has been said, this is a significant evolution from those speeches.

"Things have changed considerably this week, and they have changed considerably in a way that I will not be able to represent as my own policy and therefore I cannot be in the government."

Asked whether the Department for Exiting the European Union if his department had been cut out of the loop, he said: "There is no way of getting around it. Yes. I mean the Secretary of State and I have resigned for reasons, and these are amongst the reasons.

"The reality here is that leaving the European Union is a very difficult process.  The establishment in this country doesn’t want to leave the European Union."

Mr Baker took the opportunity to welcome the "clever and determined" Dominic Raab to his new role as Brexit Secretary, and he cooled talk of a backbench challenge to Mrs May, urgin every member of parliamentto "pause and think about the delicacy of the political situation".

The arch-Brexiteer added: "There can be no questions of letters going in, no questions of challenges to the Prime Minister, what we need is a change of policy and not challenging the Prime Minister.

"If people think it’s a good idea to get into a three-month leadership contest, followed by the necessary general to fix the numbers, when exit day is so close, then they really are on another planet.

"It is time for everyone to simmer down, work out what they believe in, and to offer constructive solutions."

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