The senior lawyer of Britain's independent inquiry into historic child sex abuse allegations has resigned.

Ben Emmerson stepped down late Thursday and attempted to dismiss speculation that his departure was linked to a difference of opinion with the committee's new chair as to how to take the inquiry forward.

Emmerson's resignation letter, posted on the inquiry's website, underscores that he remained "totally committed to securing a fair and just result for those who matter most, the victims and survivors of childhood abuse."

But he says "it is now time for someone else to take the helm with a different leadership of the counsel team."

Setbacks have dogged the sweeping investigation since it was announced in 2014. It is already on its fourth chair.