The leader of the right-wing Tory pressure group the European Research Group (ERG) has stepped down.
Steve Baker, the self-styled “Brexit hardman”, said that after five years of chairing ERG it was time to give way to others on the issue.
He said the group – whose failure to support Theresa May’s Brexit deal eventually led to the former PM’s demise – had “wielded more power from the backbenches than any others in the long history of our party and country”.
“I thank God we have succeeded,” he wrote in his resignation letter to the ERG’s deputy chairman Mark Francois.
Baker said: “We held together through a number of counterproductive missteps by the then leadership, only entering a period of revolt over the disastrous ‘Chequers’ plan of 2018.
“Today, prime minister Boris Johnson has the policy, the mandate and the majority he needs to deliver an exit from the EU worth having. I do not forget that he and I and David Davis resigned over Chequers.
“Boris named the ‘Chuck Chequers’ campaign and, after much difficulty and division, we did in the end succeed in doing that. And thank goodness we did: it is alarming to reflect on what the state of both party and country would have been if we had failed in this gamble.”
The Wycombe MP said he wanted to spend more time with his constituents, and to do his bit to “start bringing the country together now we have left the EU”.”
Baker’s departure appears to have been planned for some time – tweets relating to Brexit were removed from his Twitter account beforehand.
Politiwoops reports tweets removed include retweets from Jacob Rees-Mogg on lower consumer prices, the Number 10 press office on keeping “peace, stability and security on our continent”, and tweets from the ‘Good Life after Brexit’ conference.
A number of tweets on Heathrow have also been removed.
Mark Francois said he would take over as chairman following Baker’s departure.
He told the PA news agency: “The ERG will continue to fully support the prime minister in his efforts to achieve a comprehensive free trade agreement, as outlined in his powerful Greenwich speech.
“I would like to pay a particular tribute to Steve Baker for his excellent leadership of the ERG and his key role, over many years, in finally securing the independence of our country.”