LONDON (Reuters) - Former British finance minister Philip Hammond said on Tuesday he would not stand as a candidate in the upcoming national election, the latest high-profile lawmaker to join an exodus from parliament.
Hammond was one of 21 Conservative lawmakers expelled from the parliamentary party in September by Prime Minister Boris Johnson after they voted to prevent him taking Britain out of the EU without a divorce agreement.
Johnson's decision to hold an election on Dec. 12, after parliament held up passage of his Brexit deal with the EU, has triggered a wave of resignations or retirements in the House of Commons, including many centrist politicians from his own party who have said the time has come to move on.
"If I fight the general election as an independent conservative candidate against an official Conservative Party candidate, I would cease to be a member of the party," Hammond wrote in a letter to constituents.
"I am saddened to find myself in this position after 45 years of Conservative Party membership," he added.
Fellow ex-finance minister Ken Clarke, former interior minister Amber Rudd and former deputy prime minister David Lidington have also said they will not contest the next election.
Hammond served as finance minister for three years in Theresa May's administration until Boris Johnson won the race to replace her in July 2019. He was also foreign secretary and defense minister under prime minister David Cameron.
Nicknamed "Spreadsheet Phil" for his low-key and fastidious style as finance minister, Hammond campaigned for Britain to stay in the European Union ahead of the 2016 referendum, although he was long regarded as a euroskeptic.
He has been critical of Johnson's hardline approach to Brexit and party discipline.
"The Conservative Party that I have served has always had room for a wide range of opinions and has been tolerant of measured dissent," Hammond said.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce; editing by Andrew MacAskill and Philippa Fletcher)