Steve Baker, a “Brexit spartan” who voted against Theresa May’s deal with the EU on all three occasions, has said the vote to leave the EU should have required a supermajority of 60 per cent.
The leading “Leave” campaigner was a prominent voice the 2016 referendum, which saw the voting public back ending EU membership by 52 per to 48 per cent, as well as during the turmoil that followed.
He has in the past described himself as the “hard man of Brexit”.
Reflecting on his role as an arch-rebel in the 2016-2019 period, Baker recently told BBC’s Newsnight programme that it “cost me my mental health”.
“November ’21, I had a major mental health crisis. Anxiety and depression. Couldn’t go on. People couldn’t tell. Holding those tigers by the tail took its toll. We’re only human”, he added.
Baker, who now serves as Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office, made the comments about a 60 per cent Brexit supermajority as he suggested a “50 per cent plus one” majority would not be advisable for a vote on Irish unification.
Baker told a meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) on Monday that it should “probably should have been a supermajority” of at least 60 per cent to leave the bloc.
He added that not having the threshold had caused serious political “trouble”.
He said: “One regret is it probably should have been a supermajority.
“That’s a huge thing for me to say – because if it had been a supermajority we’d have lost and we’d still be in. But the reason I say that is if we’d had to have 60 per cent, everybody would have abided by the result.”
“If it had been a 60-40 result, it’s inconceivable to me that we would have had all of the political difficulty which followed from members of parliament in particular refusing to accept the result.”
Baker then cautioned against a “50 per cent plus one” result in any potential Irish unification vote. “Would anyone here seriously want a 50 per cent plus one united Ireland result in Northern Ireland?”.
“Just reflect on the trouble we had from running a 50 per cent plus one referendum in the United Kingdom and ask yourself whether you really want that trouble in Northern Ireland – and I don’t”.
Baker, a former chair of the European Research Group of Eurosceptic Conservatives, backed Rishi Sunak’s renegotiation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, the so-called “Windsor Framework”, passed in March of this year.
In doing so, Baker invoked the ire of his former colleagues in the ERG and was kicked out of one of the group’s WhatsApp chats.
It came after Baker apologised for his once “ferocious” stance on negotiations with the EU which he said did not always encourage Ireland to trust the UK government.