Liz Truss confirms appointment of Tony Abbott as post-Brexit trade adviser

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photograph: Tristan Fewings/PA.

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photograph: Tristan Fewings/PA. - Credit: PA

Controversial figure Tony Abbott has been appointed to the Board of Trade, despite critics arguing the former Australian prime minister was not suitable to be a government trade adviser.

Critics raised numerous concerns over allegations against the 62-year-old, including his climate change scepticism and belief that coronavirus restrictions should be lifted.

But Boris Johnson defended him, heralding his status as a former leader of 'freedom-loving' and 'liberal' Australia.

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The Department for International Trade has now formally announced that Abbott will form part of the new-look Board of Trade, in what is said to be an unpaid role.

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Trade secretary Liz Truss said: 'The new Board of Trade will play an important role in helping Britain make the case for free and fair trade across the UK and around the world.

'At a time of increased protectionism and global insecurity, it's vital that the UK is a strong voice for open markets and that we play a meaningful role in reshaping global trading rules alongside like-minded countries.

'The new board will help us do that, bringing together a diverse group of people who share Britain's belief in free enterprise, democracy, and high standards and rules-based trade.'

Shadow international trade secretary Emily Thornberry said: 'There are two factors that should have immediately disqualified Tony Abbott from this role.

'First, his history of offensive statements is so long and repetitive that it speaks to serious defects in his character, which is not one I think should be representing Britain on the world stage.

'And second, the fact that he has no experience of detailed trade negotiations, no understanding of Brexit, no belief in climate change, no concern for workers' rights, and no compunction about killing off Australia's car industry mean, to my mind, that he has no credentials for this role.

'Tony Abbott is therefore the wrong appointment on every level, which begs the more important question of why on earth Boris Johnson and Liz Truss have given him the job.

'However, with this shambolic excuse for a government, we may continue to be appalled and disappointed at their serial incompetence, but we should never any longer be surprised.'

The SNP said the appointment as an adviser to the Board of Trade was 'beyond indefensible'.

The party's Westminster deputy leader Kirsten Oswald said: 'The appointment of Tony Abbott to the UK's post-Brexit trade body is beyond indefensible and speaks volumes about the kind of Tory government this is.

'If holding misogynistic, homophobic, Trump-backing, climate change denying views, as well as saying that some elderly people with Covid-19 should be allowed to die, is what qualifies you for a role with this Tory government in promoting the UK internationally then it is not so much 'Global Britain' as it is 'Little Britain'.

'It's telling that the Tories' only defence of his litany of offensive remarks is that he also happens to be an expert in trade.

'This is a test for (new Scottish Tories leader) Douglas Ross, who pledged to 'stand up' to Boris Johnson.

'Will he, along with his Scottish Tory colleagues, speak out over this abhorrent appointment or simply sit on their hands looking the other way?

'It's little wonder that people in Scotland are looking on in disgust at the out-of-touch Westminster system – with poll after poll showing people in Scotland looking to independence for a better, progressive and outward-looking future.'

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