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May makes Baker Brexit minister – what does she mean by that?

13 June 2017

5:16 PM

13 June 2017

5:16 PM

Theresa May has just appointed Steve Baker as a junior minister to the Department for Exiting the EU. A lead Brexiteer, Baker’s appointment will help to calm nerves among Leave-backing MPs that May is now heading for a ‘soft’ Brexit. The Eurosceptic MP replaces David Jones, who has been sacked as a Brexit minister. Jones was also a hardcore Brexiteer so Baker’s appointment suggests that Jones was not axed as part of a pro-Remain cull, as previously suggested.

Baker was instrumental to the Leave campaign. The chair of Conservatives for Britain, he was deployed by Vote Leave as a ‘flying monkey’ to turn up the ‘pressure on David Cameron’ in the Commons – and Baker has talked of the Guerrilla tactics he engaged in. Since the result, he has continued to play an important role behind the scenes. As the current chair of the European Research Group, Baker is seen to hold sway on the most hardline Brexit supporters in the party. He has done what many people thought impossible: get Tory Eurosceptics organised behind a common position.

It’s notable that Baker has spent the morning – prior to his appointment – attempting to clarify his Brexit stance. In a series of tweets, he said it was wrong to talk of a ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit – claiming he wants the ‘softest’ exit consistent with leaving the EU:

The fact that May has now moved Baker into government suggests that she now thinks he is of more use keeping Leave MPs on side from the inside than from the outside. However, there’s also another factor at play. If an MP is a minister, they are much less likely to rebel or organise a rebellion in the Commons – something May knows Baker to excel at.


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