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MPs urge Theresa May to address the poor gender balance in UK's Brexit team


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Theresa May is being urged to address the gender balance in the government’s EU negotiating team, as out of nine senior figures only one is a woman.

56 female Labour MPs have signed a letter warning the prime minister that a lack of women’s voices in the talks puts issues such as maternity leave at risk of being ‘watered down’.

The MPs wrote: “While women from 51% of the UK population, 32% of parliament, 50% of the shadow cabinet and 22% of your current cabinet, women form only 11% of the UK’s EU negotiating team – one out of nine. Our European counterparts, on the other hand, have women in nearly half of their team’s positions.

“Brexit negotiations will need women’s voices, on mainstream issues like the economy as well as on directly addressing, for example, how we maintain workplace rights – much of which are underpinned by EU legislation.

“A watering-down of workers’ rights would impact women the most, from maternity leave to discrimination in the workplace.”

Catherine Webb is the only woman among the nine senior civil servants listed by the Department for Exiting the EU. She previously served in the Cabinet Office as Director of EU Internal Issues and also worked in Beijing for 11 years trying to strengthen the UK and China's economic relationship.

As well as mostly being male, the UK’s key negotiators are also all white.

Speaking to The Guardian, Harriet Harman, who signed the letter to the PM, said the negotiating team is “a self-perpetuating oligarchy of men at the top of the civil service and it is out of touch with modern Britain.”

Writing for The Guardian Tania Branigan said: "There is nothing shocking about the photos of the UK’s Brexit negotiating team. They are almost exactly as you would expect. Somehow, it is normal that a team working on behalf of 65 million people should contain no person of colour and “more beards than women”."

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