The Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for the Lincolnshire constituency of Sleaford and North Hykeham, Stephen Phillips QC has resigned with immediate effect.

Mr Phillips cited “very significant policy differences” with the government and his own party regarding its approach to leaving the European Union (EU).

Stephen Phillips QC MP has resigned with immediate effect. Photo: UK Parliament/flickr
Stephen Phillips QC MP has resigned with immediate effect. Photo: UK Parliament/flickr

Mr Phillips voted to leave the EU in June’s referendum but has since been critical of the government’s lack of openness to scrutiny on its negotiating position.

His resignation today is despite a High Court ruling just yesterday which said the government must go through parliament before triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty – the formal process for leaving the EU.

In a statement, Mr Phillips said: “It has become clear to me over the last few months that my growing and very significant policy differences with the current government mean that I am unable properly to represent the people who elected me.

“This decision has been a difficult one and I hope that everyone will respect the fact that I have tried to act in the best interests of all of my constituents.”

The Lincolnshire MP was first elected back in 2010, and in last year’s general election returned to parliament with a majority of over 24,000 votes.

Within minutes of the announcement his website, displayed the error message: “This website no longer exists.”

It is yet to be confirmed if he will stand in the resulting by-election as an independent candidate.

After a summer of turmoil for the Labour party – with a host of resignations from the shadow cabinet and a brutal leadership election – it’s the Conservatives who are now facing somewhat of a crisis.

The resignation of Stephen Phillips comes just over a week after Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park in London also resigned because of the government’s decision to back a third runway at Heathrow airport.

The Conservatives aren’t putting forward a candidate to appose Zac Goldsmith who will run in the by-election as an independent candidate.

Although it’s not yet confirmed whether Stephen Phillips will stand in the Sleaford and North Hykeham by-election, or if the Conservatives will put forward a candidate if he does stand, the wafer-thin Tory majority in the House of Commons looks ever more fragile.

It gives Prime Minister Theresa May a headache about calling an early general election. It will cause further disruptions to the workings of parliament and exiting the EU, however it may also present her with her first solid electoral mandate as Prime Minister.