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Tuesday 6 June 2023 Dublin: 11°C
# brexit remorse
An emotional Steve Baker regrets 'Brexit hardman' image and speaks about 'mental health crisis'
Baker has urged his Tory colleagues to back the Windsor Framework.

AN EMOTIONAL STEVE Baker has spoken about “a major mental health crisis” he experienced as a result of “leading rebellions” against Brexit negotiations. 

Baker is a former member of the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) of Tory MPs and was one of the staunchest advocates for a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ from the European Union. 

The ERG remains a difficulty for current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the group is due to meet tonight to discuss the latest deal with the EU. 

Baker, however, has spoken about the regrets he has about some of the positions he adopted in the past. 

Baker is now a minister in the Northern Ireland Office and made headlines last year when he issued an apology for his past “ferocious” stances on negotiations with the EU.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight last night, Baker was visibly emotional as he urged his colleagues to back the Windsor Framework, saying it was time to “be sensible and grown up and do the right thing by 1.9 million people”. 

He described his work in the ERG and the lockdown-sceptic COVID Recovery Group as “holding these tigers by the tail”, saying they caused him emotional distress. 

“Seven years of this cost me my mental health. The beard, the jewellery, this is about my recovery,” Baker said, pointing at his appearance. 

In November 2021 I had a major mental health crisis, anxiety and depression, I couldn’t go on. People couldn’t tell, I made a big keynote speech in the afternoon.

“But make no mistake, holding these tigers by the tail, Brexit, the COVID Recovery Group, the Net Zero scrutiny group. The tax stuff we did with Conservative Way Forward, it took its toll. We’re all only human. And the way I’ve led rebellions no one should have to and this is an important moment for me personally, because I can authentically say he’s done it.”

He asked people to “read the text” of the deal, saying that it provides “an incredible opportunity for the people of Northern Ireland”. 

He added: “Just be sensible and grown up do the right thing by 1.9 million people and the ripple effects for everybody else. You bet I’m emotional, because this bookends a seven-year chapter of my life which I will be glad to close.”

Baker went on to say that one of the “worst mistakes he’s ever made” was to embrace the description of a “Brexit hardman” that was given to him. 

“I stupidly invited a journalist to put it to me on air, thinking it was funny, but it was just a mistake at the end of a long, exhausting day and unfortunately, it was catnip to the press. I made the mistake once, it Agot repeated and repeated. It cost me 2,000 votes in Wycombe and it’s still, as you’re showing now, it’s still a stone in my shoe.”

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