ERG deputy willing to stand for Tory leadership with Brexiteer backing

European Research Group (ERG) deputy chairman Steve Baker has announced he will stand in the Tory leadership contest if colleagues ask him to.

Launching a paper on how to rip up the current Brexit deal and achieve a “clean, managed” exit from the EU, Mr Baker said the new leader must be willing to follow its recommendations.

Otherwise, Mr Baker said, the group would need to put forward its own candidate – and he was willing to join the race when it officially opens on Monday.

With 16 names signed on the policy paper, including former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, Mr Baker indicated he already had the minimum number of nominations to enter.

“I am in the hands of my colleagues,” he said.

“If we get to the opening and closing of nominations on Monday and we collectively agree there must be somebody who is willing to do this then I would be willing to be the person who gets nominated.”

He added: “If you’re asking am I decided that if they ask me to do it I will, you bet.”

Brexiteers were “spoiled for choice” for candidates, Mr Baker added, and named three candidates – Esther McVey, Dominic Raab and Boris Johnson – he believed could back the ERG paper.

Esther McVey
Esther McVey

“I have to say Esther, Dom and Boris are all three of them excellent candidates, talented people,” he said.

“All of them I believe capable, with their own approach, of in the end delivering a satisfactory exit from the EU and indeed win a general election.”

But a range of conversations would now need to take place, said Mr Baker, now there was “a stake in the ground” on how to deliver Brexit.

Mr Baker’s potential candidacy would take the number of contenders in the leadership race back up to 12 if he does decide to stand on Monday.