Liz Truss' allies calling for bid to take over from Prime Minister
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Chris Heaton Harris has taken up the mantle of Minister of State for Europe and will be aiding the Foreign Secretary on all matters Brexit following the resignation of Lord Frost this week. The former chief negotiator quit his cabinet role on Saturday night, citing concerns about the “direction of travel” of Boris Johnson’s Government.
He said: “I left the government, as I think is well known, because I couldn’t support certain policies, most recently on COVID restrictions and ‘plan B’.
“If you’re a minister, you have to support collective responsibility, you have to support decisions of the government, and I couldn’t so that’s why I had to leave.”
However, he backed the Prime Minister to continue leading in what has been one of the worst months so far for Mr Johnson.
He said: “I’m absolutely confident he’s the right man to take the country forward.”
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Lord Frost, who was responsible for EU matters and negotiations – which have been in abundance of late – has handed over his responsibilities to Ms Truss, who will now deal with foreign affairs, international development, women and equalities and Brexit.
But the appointment of a so-called understudy has made the Foreign Secretary’s workload a little lighter.
Mr Heaton-Harris has been made Minister of State for Europe and will deputise for the Foreign Secretary as necessary on EU Exit and the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Ms Truss tweeted this week: “Pleased to be taking on responsibility for the EU negotiations and wider relationship with the excellent Chris Heaton-Harris.”
Who is Chris Heaton Harris?
Mr Heaton Harris has been the MP for Daventry, Northamptonshire, since 2010.
He has held various roles in the Tory party and in Government since the 2010 election.
On the right side of the Conservatives, Mr Heaton Harris is one of the party’s chief Eurosceptics, having been MEP for the East Midlands from 1999 to 2009.
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He was chairman of the influential European Research Group of MPs from 2010 to 2016, when he came into Government under former prime minister Theresa May.
First serving as a whip, he then became deputy leader of the House of Commons and Comptroller of the Household – an ancient position in the British royal household – from January to June 2018.
He was also a Brexit Minister under Mrs May, until he resigned to support Andrea Leadsom’s leadership bid, which was lost to Boris Johnson.
Mr Johnson then placed the Daventry MP in the Department for Transport under Grant Shapps.
What difference will it make?
The placement of Mr Heaton Harris by the Prime Minister is likely to appease some of his more unruly backbenchers – of which there are currently plenty.
It remains to be seen whether there will be a policy change under the pair, but former remainer Ms Truss is reportedly likely to go for some subtle changes in policy as the Northern Ireland protocol progresses.
Mr Heaton Harris, a longtime critic of the EU, is likely to keep any softening of Brexit stances in check.
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