May appoints Brexit campaigner Steve Baker as junior minister

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, leaves 10 Downing Street in central London, Britain June 13, 2017. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday appointed Brexit campaigner Steve Baker to a junior ministerial role in the government department charged with negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Ahead of his appointment, Baker tweeted: “The language of ‘hard’ vs ‘soft’ Brexit is so misleading. We need a good, clean exit which minimises disruption and maximises opportunity.

“In other words, we need the ‘softest’ exit consistent with actually leaving and controlling laws, money, borders and trade,” he said.

Since last year’s vote to leave the EU, Baker has played an influential role in organising a group of eurosceptic lawmakers within May’s Conservative Party in opposition to any attempt to water down the terms of Britain’s departure.

Earlier this year, Baker said in an article posted on his website that Britain must seek a new and independent partnership with the EU, rejecting any kind of “associate membership, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out.”

The Liberal Democrats, a party that has consistently opposed Brexit, said Baker’s appointment “flies in the face of last week’s election in which the British people clearly rejected May’s extreme version of Brexit”.

“Far from softening her stance on Brexit, Theresa May is doubling down by appointing an arch Brexiteer to help lead the negotiations,” said Liberal Democrat lawmaker Alistair Carmichael.

“She is putting a fox in charge of guarding the henhouse.”

Reporting by William James and Paul Sandle; editing by Guy Faulconbridge