EXCL Lord Bates blasts Brexit 'aggressiveness and intolerance' as he quits government to walk to Brussels
A government minister has revealed that "aggressiveness, intolerance and incivility" over Brexit led him to quit his post and go on a walk from Belfast to Brussels.
Former international development minister Lord Bates - whose surprise resignation was announced by Number 10 on Tuesday - said the debate over Britain's EU departure had descended into "a kind of toxic court room divorce battle".
And he urged the country to "heal the divisions" caused by the Brexit debate as he explained why he had decided to embark on an extended trek from the UK to Brussels with his wife Xuelin.
Writing for PoliticsHome, the Tory peer said his decision to quit had been prompted by an opinion poll published last week in which vast swathes of voters described the country as divided - with almost three-quarters saying the divisions splits had grown since the 2016 EU referendum.
"I have been in politics a long time and realise the limitations of building a case on a single opinion poll, but these findings struck a chord with my own experiences," he said.
"There is an aggressiveness, intolerance and incivility which has emerged in our public discourse which is doing our country immense long-term harm.
"Brexit has become for us a kind of toxic court room divorce battle in which the hatred of the parents for each other, and their refusal to concede ground to the other, has all but obscured their shared love and responsibility for their children.
"It is time to seek selfless solutions that put the happiness and wellbeing of all the people first."
Urging his fellow politicians to "rediscover the common ground between us", the Conservative peer said his decision to quit the Government and "step out on a walk" would allow him to focus on "rebuilding that unity of purpose at home and close friendships abroad" that had been lacking in the bitter Brexit debate.
"It is probable that our walk will fail either to identify common ground to move forward or to begin a process of national coming together, but we believe it is right to try and find a different path from the one we are currently on, one which will bring us closer together rather than driving us further apart," he said.
Lord Bates and Xuelin are due to arrive in Dublin on Wednesday.
The former minister - who served as a whip in John Major's government - stunned Westminster last year when he briefly quit the frontbench on the floor of the House of Lords after turning up late for a debate.
He also briefly resigned as a minister in March 2016 to take part in a 2000-mile solo walk from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro.