A number of EU members, led by the UK, could move to block a proposal to introduce a 40 per cent female quota on listed company boards across the 27 country bloc.

The proposed legislation, expected to be formally introduced by Viviane Reding, the EU’s justice commissioner, next month, aims to increase equality, diversity and inclusion among the most senior positions at the EU’s top firms.

However, the plans were met with strong opposition from Britain, which favours a voluntary approach to increasing gender equality on boards, with the country’s government launching a diplomatic push to gain support in its resistance to the proposals from other EU members.

And ,according to the Financial Times, Britain has now mustered sufficient backing from other EU states to block the proposals.

In addition to the UK, eight countries, including the Netherlands, Malta, and six central and eastern European states, have sent a letter to Ms Reding and the European Commission’s president Jose Manuel Barroso, voicing their disapproval of the proposals.

They argue that such issues should be dealt with by each EU member at a national level.

“We agree with the commission’s stance that there are still too few women on the boards of publicly listed companies,” said a draft of the letter, obtained by the Financial Times.

“[But] we reiterate that any targeted measures in this area should be devised and implemented at national level. Therefore, we do not support the adoption of legally binding provisions for women on company boards at the European level.”

The move may force Brussels to drop the legislation, as the nine countries opposed to the proposal now have sufficient votes between them to block the plan under the EU’s majority voting process.

EU data from January reveals that women represent just 13.7 per cent of board positions in large listed companies within the 27 member nations.