Catherine Margaret Ashton, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, (born 20 March 1956 at Upholland, Lancashire) is a British Labour politician who served as the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and First Vice President of the European Commission in the Barroso Commission from 2009 to 2014.
Her political career began in 1999 when she was created a Life Peer as “Baroness Ashton of Upholland, of St Albans, in the County of Hertfordshire” by Tony Blair’s Labour Government. She became the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Education and Skills in 2001 and subsequently in the Ministry of Justice in 2004. She was appointed a Privy Councillor in May 2006.
Ashton became Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council in Gordon Brown’s first Cabinet in June 2007. She was instrumental in steering the EU’s Treaty of Lisbon through the UK Parliament’s upper chamber. In 2008, she was appointed as the British European Commissioner and became the Commissioner for Trade in the European Commission.In December 2009, she became the inaugural High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy that was created by the Treaty of Lisbon. As High Representative, Ashton served as the EU’s foreign policy chief. Despite being criticised by some, particularly at the time of her appointment and in the early stages of her term of office, for her limited previous experience of international diplomacy, Ashton subsequently won praise for her work as a negotiator in difficult international situations, in particular for her role in bringing Serbia and Kosovo to an agreement in April 2013 that normalised their ties, and in the P5+1 talks with Iran which led to the November 2013 Geneva interim agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme.In January 2017, Ashton became Chancellor of the University of Warwick, succeeding Sir Richard Lambert and becoming Warwick’s first female chancellor.