Visible Women

“Boys playing a game”: Jess Phillips dismisses the cabinet’s approach to Brexit

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Moya Crockett
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Speaking on Stylist’s new political TV show Women of the House, the Labour MP argued that certain politicians are “using Brexit as a proxy to get what they want”.

Labour MP Jess Phillips has suggested that many of the male politicians currently bickering over Brexit don’t truly care about the nuts and bolts of leaving the EU — but are instead attempting to use the issue for their own political gain.

“What we see in the cabinet is people using Brexit as a proxy to get what they want — and power. It’s absolutely nothing to do with Brexit,” Phillips said during an appearance on Stylist’s new political panel show Women of the House.

“Bless, it’s just boys playing a game.”

Phillips is not the first person to note that the Brexit negotiations have often been marked by a certain kind of macho posturing. 

Before the EU referendum even took place, the Labour MP Harriet Harman warned that women’s voices were being excluded from the Brexit debate, with a handful of male politicians dominating discussions and failing to pay adequate attention to how leaving the EU could affect women’s rights

Jess Phillips on Stylist’s new political TV show Women of the House 

Sophie Walker, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, has also criticised certain men involved in pushing for Brexit. “I’ve never been more struck by the impact of overconfident men trading bluster for knowledge and honesty,” she wrote in The Guardian in July.

“Two years after the EU referendum, the men who have dominated our Brexit debate – from Boris Johnson to Nigel Farage – have discounted evidence that campaign irregularities and outright lies skewed the referendum. They have offered the sketchiest of plans and winked away impact assessments and forecasts. 

“But their bombast can no longer conceal the truth before us: that Brexit will harm those with least, to whom it promised the most.”

Phillips voted in favour of the UK remaining in the European Union at the EU referendum in 2016. Earlier this year, she defied Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn — along with 48 other rebel MPs from her party — to vote for a “soft” version of Brexit that would have included staying in the single market.

Women of the House presenter Isabel Webster with MPs Kemi Badenoch, Hannah Bardell and Jess Phillips 

But despite her strong views on Brexit, Phillips said her relationships with politicians she otherwise liked had not been affected by their different views on leaving the EU.

When asked by Women of the House presenter Isabel Webster if she now avoided some people in the Commons because she didn’t like their views on Brexit, the MP for Birmingham Yardley replied: “God no, not at all!”

Elsewhere in the show, Phillips expressed her concern about how Brexit is damaging women’s rights, and voiced disdain for one politician in particular: former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who she denounced as “a charlatan” and “a fake”.

Phillips appeared on Stylist’s new political TV show alongside her fellow female MPs Kemi Badenoch (Conservatives, Saffron Walden) and Hannah Bardell (SNP, Livingston).

Find out more about why Stylist launched Women of the House and watch the full first episode here.

Stylist’s Visible Women campaign aims to raise the profiles of women in politics – and inspire future generations to follow their lead. See more Visible Women stories here

Images: Getty Images 

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Women’s Editor at stylist.co.uk, where she is currently overseeing the Visible Women campaign. As well as writing about inspiring women and feminism, she also covers subjects including careers, podcasts and politics. Carrying a tiny bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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