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Amber Rudd says 'whiff of sexism' in way Tory MPs will back Johnson's deal but rejected May's

3 min read

Amber Rudd has said there is a "whiff of sexism" in the way Tory MPs are preparing to back Boris Johnson's Brexit deal after rejecting Theresa May's.

The former Cabinet minister also accused Brexiteers in the European Research Group who helped to oust Mrs May earlier this year of "machismo".

But ERG chairman Steve Baker said the former Prime Minister's gender had been "irrelevant" in his group's longstanding opposition to her Brexit plans.

Mrs May resigned from Number 10 in June after failing to get her Brexit agreement through the House of Commons three times.

Speaking to Radio 5 Live's Emma Barnett, Ms Rudd - who quit Boris Johnson's Cabinet last month - condemned the "very disappointing" treatment of Mrs May by "very largely male groups".

And she predicted that the same people would end up backing an agreement thrashed out by Mr Johnson - despite the fact any deal he agrees will be "similar" to the one negotiated by the former Prime Minister.

People would, she said, "draw their own conclusions [about] why that is".

Pressed on whether sexism was to blame, Ms Rudd added: "I think there absolutely is a whiff of sexism. It is difficult to fillet out... how much is about a more trusting relationship that they clearly have with Boris Johnson, because he himself was very much part of that ERG group in terms of wanting a harder Brexit than the former Prime Minister wanted, but I do feel as a woman who's active in politics myself, that there is a whiff of sexism."


When she quit the Cabinet in September, Ms Rudd - who resigned from the Conservative Party at the same time - blamed Mr Johnson's decision to remove the Tory whip from 21 rebel MPs who backed a bill aiming to stop a no-deal Brexit.

She told Radio 5 Live: "There are certain behaviours that particularly men in politics want to see, that women don't so much, that Boris did adopt, which has given the ERG members a lot of confidence.

"So, for instance, I was very opposed to the Prime Minister expelling 21 colleagues from the party...

"But he took a different view, and I thought that was a very aggressive thing to do, and unnecessary, and has had the effect of radicalising the 21 - which I have now joined.  So that sort of aggressive behaviour, though, may be the sort of thing that a group of ERG men, particularly, wanted to see."

The former Cabinet minister added: “[There is] a sort of machismo about it.

"And, I mean, this is a long-running theme really at the moment in politics isn't it? That there's a lot of international examples of machismo, and macho men, saying, this is the way I'm going to do it - you’re either with me or against me.

"And in my experience, women tend to want to build consensus and compromise much more, although again I've got to put a caveat on that, because there are plenty of men in my camp who want to build compromise and consensus as well. But that overall characterisation I think is still valid in politics.”

But Mr Baker, a longstanding Brexiteer who chairs the ERG wing of the Conservative Party, rejected the claim that Eurosceptics had been motivated by sexism.

He shot back: "As I've said, I will vote for a tolerable deal.

"And I'm as ready as ever to vote against an intolerable deal.

"It all hinges on analysis of the legal text of a proposed deal and its effect. Eurosceptics tend to be tediously meticulous on this point.

"Gender is irrelevant."

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