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David Davis responds to criticism of male-dominated Brexit negotiating team

David Davis responds to criticism of male-dominated Brexit negotiating team
3 min read

David Davis has issued a lengthy response to accusations that the UK’s Brexit negotiating team is dominated by men. 

The Brexit Secretary said 40% of the UK’s 98 diplomats and civil servants engaged in the last round of talks in July were women.  

Pictures of the talks showed Mr Davis accompanied by a number of men for the UK side, while the Department for Exiting the European Union’s own website published biographies of the civil service top representatives for the negotiations – of which eight were men and one was a woman.

In a letter to the Lords EU Committee, Mr Davis responded to a request from Labour peer Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws for further information on the gender balance of the team.

“In July over 90 officials travelled to Brussels to support the negotiations and my department released information about the UK’s negotiating team on, including biographies,” said the Tory minister.

“Using the July round as an example, approximately 60% of the UK’s negotiating team were men and 40% were women.

“This represents those from Whitehall and UKRep who attended working groups or plenary meetings and is not limited to senior civil servants.”

He also said the senior team was “neither exhaustive nor necessarily fixed”, pointing out that Sarah Healey, the director general at DExEU, was the lead for July’s round.

Women comprised 52% of DExEU’s overall workforce at the end of last month, Mr Davis added.

“We continue to strive towards achieving diversity across the civil service, representative of modern day Britain, and as Secretary of State for DExEU, I remain committed to supporting that objective.

“I will also continue to work for the best possible deal for the UK during these negotiations, and that means using the best expertise we have available to support the negotiation in DExEU and across Whitehall, regardless of gender or any other factor.”


His comments came in a letter updating the peers on the second round of negotiations with the EU’s team last month.

He described the session, which focused on the mutual rights of UK and EU citizens after Brexit, as “four days of difficult, but ultimately productive, discussions”.

Mr Davis said: “We have taken a significant step forward. There is a much clearer understanding on the detail of the positions on both sides and significant convergence on the key issues that really matter to citizens.

“It is clear that both sides want to move swiftly towards an agreement and the discussions underlined the importance placed on providing reassurance to EU citizens and UK nationals.”

Disagreements remain, Mr Davis said, on the cut-off date for citizens living in each other's countries, which court will preside over the mutual rights, family reunion, and whether UK nationals living in other member states should have continued free movement.  

He concluded with a plea for the EU to allow talks to discuss the future relationship between the UK and Brussels – something that it said would only be allowed after sufficient progress had been made on citizens’ rights, the Irish border, and the so-called “divorce bill”.

“All in all, the second round of negotiations have given us a lot to be positive about. They have however only served to reinforce my view that we cannot negotiate the UK’s exit properly without addressing what our future relationship looks like.”

He said he would appear before the Lords committee in October to provide further updates on subsequent rounds of negotiations.

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