DOMINIC Raab has resigned as deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, complaining bitterly about the bullying probe that forced him out.

“In setting the threshold for bullying so low, this inquiry has set a dangerous precedent,” he said, warning it would “encourage spurious complaints against ministers”.

He also attacked civil servants for "systematic leaking of skewed and fabricated claims to the media".

The inquiry found he had been "intimidating" and "aggressive" to officials.

Mr Raab has been urged to stand down as the MP for Esher and Walton, where he had a majority of just 2,743 over the Liberal Democrats in 2019.

UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said a "weak" Mr Sunak should have sacked Mr Raab rather than letting him resign.

ANALYSIS: Raab resignation raises more questions about Sunak's judgment

One of Rishi Sunak’s closest allies, Mr Raab had been under investigation for  five months by Adam Tolley KC after eight formal complaints into his conduct in three different departments.

Mr Sunak received the findings of fact yesterday morning, but failed to live up to his promise to make a “swift” call on whether to sack Mr Raab.

Opposition parties accused him of dither and delay as the issue dragged on overnight.

After refusing to quit yesterday on the grounds he did not believe he had broken the ministerial code, Mr Raab spared his boss the final decision and left the government himself just before 10am.

However his resignation statement angrily attacked the process.

He began with an apparent admission that there had been a finding of bullying against him.

“I called for the inquiry and undertook to resign, if it made any finding of bullying whatsoever. I believe it is important to keep my word,” he said.

But the tone then became increasingly defiant and unhappy.

Mr Raab went on: “Whilst I feel duty bound to accept the outcome of the inquiry, it dismissed all but two of the claims levelled against me. I also believe that its two adverse findings are flawed and set a dangerous precedent for the conduct of good government.

“First, ministers must be able to exercise direct oversight with respect to senior officials over critical negotiations conducted on behalf of the British people, otherwise the democratic and constitutional principle of ministerial responsibility will be lost.

“This was particularly true during my time as Foreign Secretary, in the context of the Brexit negotiations over Gibraltar, when a senior diplomat breached the mandate agreed by Cabinet.

“Second, ministers must be able to give direct critical feedback on briefings and submissions to senior officials in order to set the standards and drive the reform the public expect of us. Of course, this must be done within reasonable bounds.

“Mr Tolley concluded that I had not once, in four and a half years, sworn or shouted at anyone, let alone thrown anything or otherwise physically intimidated anyone, nor intentionally sought to belittle anyone.

“I am genuinely sorry for any unintended stress or offence that any officials felt, as a result of the pace, standards and challenge that I brought to the Ministry of Justice. That is, however, what the public expect of ministers working on their behalf.”

He concluded: “In setting the threshold for bullying so low, this inquiry has set a dangerous precedent.

“It will encourage spurious complaints against ministers and have a chilling effect on those driving change on behalf of your government — and ultimately the British people.

“Finally, I raised with you a number of improprieties that came to light during the course of this inquiry.

"They include the systematic leaking of skewed and fabricated claims to the media in breach of the rules of the inquiry and the Civil Service Code of Conduct, and the coercive removal by a senior official of dedicated private secretaries from my Ministry of Justice private office, in October of last year. I hope these will be independently reviewed.

“I remain as supportive of you and this government, as when I first introduced you at your campaign leadership launch last July. You have proved a great Prime Minister in very challenging times, and you can count on my support from the backbenches.”

UK LibDem deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “Dominic Raab has shown he is not only unfit to serve as a minister, but is totally unfit to represent his constituents in Parliament.

“He should resign as an MP and trigger a by-election so the people of Esher and Walton can finally have the MP they deserve.

“Voters across Surrey and the Blue Wall are fed up with this endless Conservative chaos and MPs who take their communities for granted.

“At the next election in Esher and Walton, it will be a two-horse race between more Conservative Party chaos or a hardworking Liberal Democrat MP who will listen and stand up for local people.”

Mike Clancy, general secretary of the white collar union Prospect, said: “There has been a toxic culture at the top of government for too long with civil servants and public trust paying the price for this chaos. The Prime Minister now needs to clean out the rest of the stables.

“These issues go to the heart of the anger and distrust many people feel towards the way our country runs. It is time for ministers to step up and to start restoring trust both for civil servants and the good of the country.

“It is never easy to speak out about abuse from someone in power and I would like to pay tribute to those who have had the courage to do so.

“This should be a wake-up call for ministers, that the way to deliver for the public is to respect and value public servants.”

Mr Sunak has yet to respond to the resignation or publish the Tolley report.

Mr Raab had always denied bulllying staff, despite complaints arising from his time as foreign secretary, Brexit secretary and during the first of his two stints as justice secretary, insisted he "behaved professionally".

He claimed to have a "forthright manner" but nothing worse.

However leaks from those familiar with the Tolley report said it made "grim" reading for Mr Raab, whose government career was "toast".

Mr Raab initially refused to resign yesterday after receiving the findings, putting the decision on whether he should stay into Mr Sunak's hands, as the PM is the ultimate arbiter of the ministerial code.

Making that choice harder was the Tolley report presenting bald findings of fact, rather than making a recommendation for action.

Had the matter been investigated by Mr Sunak's ethics tsar, Sir Laurie Magnus, there would have been more of a steer for the PM.

However because of dithering over Sir Laurie's appointment, he was not in place when Mr Tolley was commissed to investigate in November. 

Political loyalty also played a part, as Mr Raab had been Mr Sunak's most dogged supporter during last year's Tory leadership contest with Liz Truss.

His exit leaves a major gap in Mr Sunak’s Cabinet, with speculation about who will replace him.

The Prime Minister sacked Nadhim Zahawi as Tory party chair in January amid controversy over his tax affairs.

Mr Sunak also lost Sir Gavin Williamson just days after appointing him to t the Cabinet Office after it was alleged he sent expletive-laden messages to a former chief whip.

A Labour source told the BBC that Mr Raab was the "second cabinet bully allowed to resign - Sunak failed to sack both him and Williamson."

They added: "We’ve had 13 years of Tory PMs trying to dodge the rules and defend their mates. Enough is enough."

Downing Street suggested Mr Sunak had accepted Mr Raab broke the Ministerial Code with the finding of bullying.

The PM’s official spokesman said: “You can see the aspects relevant to the code are set out in the report. I think those speak for themselves.

“The Prime Minister thinks it’s right that any findings whatsoever that are deemed to be bullying, it’s right to resign. That’s the commitment the former secretary of state made and he’s upheld that commitment.”

Asked if he would condemn the behaviour, the spokesman said: “Clearly, any bullying in general terms is unacceptable and there are clear rules that apply to that.”

He said the PM regarded Mr Tolley's report as “detailed” and “thorough”, following the former justice secretary’s criticism.

“This is a very detailed, thorough piece of work. He thanks him for it.

“It has allowed him to come to the judgment with regards the former Secretary of State.

“It is important he appointed someone of significant experience, which Adam Tolley is, to carry out this work and I think it will give people confidence that these issues are looked at thoroughly and properly.”