Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Former Middle East minister Alistair Burt to step down over Brexit

Respected Conservative has 'unresolvable' differences with government's approach to leaving the EU

MP Alistair Burt pictured at the British Embassy in Abu Dhabi in February. The National
MP Alistair Burt pictured at the British Embassy in Abu Dhabi in February. The National

A highly respected former UK Middle East minister will not contest his seat at the next general election after growing frustrated at the government's approach to leaving the EU.

Alistair Burt, Conservative MP for North-East Bedfordshire, has been critical of the refusal by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to rule out a no-deal Brexit, which critics say would devastate the UK economy.

Mr Burt already faced the threat of deselection after saying he would vote against the government and try to stop it pursuing a no-deal withdrawal.

Mr Johnson has threatened to expel Tory MPs if they go against the party line.

"It would be foolish to pretend other than that matters have been brought forward by recent events," Mr Burt said in a letter to his constituents.

"It has become clear that I have a fundamental and unresolvable disagreement with our party leadership on the manner in which we leave the EU, and the consequences for doing so.

"This is very likely to be at the root of the next election and I believe it is unfair of me to present you with a conflict of interest between my views and those of the party at an election, even if current circumstances do not result in my having the whip in Parliament removed.”

He had attacked Brexiteer elements in the UK government.

“All they care about is leaving, no matter the consequences for the United Kingdom,” Mr Burt told Sky News.

“I care about the consequences on my constituents and I’m not going to do it.”

Mr Burt at the weekend said David Gauke, the former justice secretary and a key figure in opposing the government’s Brexit plans, was not alone in standing up to his party.

A highly respected figure in the party, Mr Burt served in the Middle East portfolio for more than five years during two stints after 2010.

As undersecretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mr Burt built a deep knowledge of the region and a series of strong personal relationships.

His resignation from the post as a result of the UK’s Brexit crisis in March was met with tributes from across British politics.

Mr Burt is one of more than 20 senior Conservative MPs in the rebellion against Mr Johnson.

MPs return from their summer recess on Tuesday and will vote on a motion that could pave the way for legislation to stop the UK leaving the EU without an exit deal.

Mr Johnson has pledged to taking the country out of the EU with or without a deal on October 31.

Deselection means an MP would be prohibited from representing their party in an election.

Updated: September 3, 2019 11:38 PM

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