The high-profile Eurosceptic rebel Steve Baker has rejected a job on Boris Johnson’s frontbench, saying he did not want to repeat the “powerlessness” he felt as a junior minister before he quit over objections to Theresa May’s deal. Baker, the vice-chair of the hard Brexit European Research Group and close ally of the newly promoted
The high-profile Eurosceptic rebel Steve Baker has rejected a job on Boris Johnson’s frontbench, saying he did not want to repeat the “powerlessness” he felt as a junior minister before he quit over objections to Theresa May’s deal.
Baker, the vice-chair of the hard Brexit European Research Group and close ally of the newly promoted Jacob Rees-Mogg, appeared to have been offered a post in the Cabinet Office on Thursday night but after more than an hour inside Downing Street he said he had turned down the prime minister’s offer.
“With regret, I have turned down a ministerial job,” he tweeted, before adding that “disaster awaits” if Britain does not leave the European Union by 31 October.
Baker had hinted at some frustration with the reshuffle. He told reporters he was “minister for receiving unanswerable press enquiries” and also “minister for long waits”.
In July last year, Baker resigned as Brexit minister along with then Brexit secretary David Davis over disagreements with government policy.
Earlier in the evening, Johnson handed plum ministerial roles to some of his closest allies, Kit Malthouse, Conor Burns and Nigel Adams, as he purged more ministers who have made clear they could not stomach a no-deal Brexit.
Ministers sacked by Johnson on Thursday included the health minister Stephen Hammond and the Foreign Office minister Harriett Baldwin, both backers of Johnson’s leadership rival Jeremy Hunt.
Hammond had only recently returned to a role in government, having voted against May in 2017 in order to grant MPs a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal.
In his parting tweet, Hammond said he remains “absolutely opposed” to no deal.
Malthouse, a former City Hall colleague of Johnson who was hotly tipped for promotion to the cabinet, was given a more junior role than he is understood to have been expecting. He will be police minister, a brief with a close fit having been deputy mayor for policing during Johnson’s time as London mayor.
Burns and Adams, two of Johnson’s closest parliamentary friends and allies who were a constant presence at his side during the leadership contest, were also both promoted to international trade minister and culture minister respectively.
Burns earlier defended Johnson’s aim of only promoting MPs who would be sure to back a no-deal Brexit, hinting he did not want the ill-discipline of May’s ministers.
George Eustice, the former fisheries minister who quit the government in March over May’s plan to extend article 50, was given a role back in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.