Amber Rudd has said there is a “whiff of sexism” around hardline Brexiteer Tory MPs.
The former work and pensions secretary, who quit the cabinet as well as the Conservative party over Boris Johnson’s willingness to enable a no-deal exit from the EU, hit out at “machismo” in politics.
She told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett programme the fact that MPs from the European Research Group (ERG) were willing to back Johnson’s Brexit plan but not Theresa May’s was in part down to the fact that the current PM is a man.
“I think it is going to be similar, and I think they are going to accept it and people will draw their own conclusions why that is,” she said.
“It did feel like we had a second female prime minister being pushed out by a group of men,” Rudd added. “I think there absolutely is a whiff of sexism.”
Rudd added the “aggressive” move by Johnson to expel 21 Tory MPs from the party who voted to block no-deal was the sort of decision “a group of ERG men in particular wanted to see”.
“There is a lot of international examples of machismo and macho men saying ‘this is the way I’m gonna do it, you are other with me or against me’,” she added.
Rudd’s comments came as talks in Brussels between the UK and the EU to secure a deal this week went down to the wire.
Johnson has been set a deadline of midnight to agree a legal text that can be signed off by EU leaders at the EU Council summit which begins on Thursday.