Amber Rudd has accused Brexiteers of sexism over their support for Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.
The former Work and Pensions Secretary, who resigned from the cabinet last month in protest at the Prime Minister’s approach to Brexit, claimed there was a “whiff of sexism” about the way Brexiteers were supporting his deal despite its similarities to Theresa May’s proposals.
BBC Radio 5 Live host Emma Barnett asked why members of the European Research Group of MPs would accept the deal from him and not Mrs May, and suggested it was because “she is a woman and he is a man”.
“It’s difficult not to share that view,” Ms Rudd responded.
“I found it very disappointing at the time the way Theresa May was treated by these largely-male groups.
“It did feel like we had a second female Prime Minister being pushed out by a group of men at the time. They clearly felt that if she had been tougher with the European Union then they would have got the deal they wanted.”
Ms Rudd said she believed Mr Johnson had instilled “a lot of confidence” in the ERG members but added that she believes there is a “macho” culture engulfing British politics.
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“I think it [Boris Johnson’s deal] is going to be similar. And they are going to accept it. People will draw their own conclusions as to why that is,” Ms Rudd added.
“I think there absolutely is a whiff of sexism about this.
“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.”
Mr Johnson’s deal has been criticised for its similarities to Mrs May’s.
The only noticeable difference is the removal of the Irish border backstop and its replacement with his own plan, labelled “two borders for four years”.
Mr Johnson’s plan involves the entire UK leaving the EU on 31 October with the original transition period staying in place until 31 December 2020.
Then on the new Brexit deadline of 1 January 2021, Great Britain would leave all the EU’s institutions including the customs union.
Northern Ireland would also leave the customs union on 20 December 2020 but would still have freedom of movement within the island of Ireland for another four years, until 2025.
The proposals are still yet to be settled by British and European negotiators, but critics of the deal are worried Boris Johnson could be forced to agree to a de-facto backstop after the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier gave the UK until to tonight to produce a legal document.