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Tony Abbott eager to contribute ‘experience’ to UK commerce function

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Tony Abbott mentioned he was “proud” to be serving to the UK take advantage of its “post-Brexit alternatives”

Tony Abbott has mentioned he’s trying ahead to contributing his “experience” in world commerce to his new function as a commerce adviser to the UK authorities.

The previous Australian PM was appointed to the unpaid function on Friday, regardless of criticism over his previous feedback on ladies, LGBT individuals and local weather change.

Mr Abbott, who led Australia from 2013-15, posted on Twitter that he was “solely too eager” to assist the UK.

However Labour mentioned he ought to have been disqualified from the function.

Mr Abbott will advise the brand new Board of Commerce, set as much as assist ministers and encourage corporations to do extra enterprise internationally, however is not going to be concerned in post-Brexit talks between the UK and different international locations.

His appointment has drawn criticism from opposition events and equality activists, together with Sir Ian McKellen and Physician Who author Russell T Davies, who mentioned his previous feedback meant he was not “match” for the function.

The previous Australian PM opposed same-sex marriage in Australia’s 2017 referendum and has been accused of creating homophobic and misogynistic feedback prior to now.

He has additionally described the thought of local weather change as “faddish”, and final yr claimed the world was “within the grip of a local weather cult”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson mentioned he did “not agree with these sentiments”, however rejected options he was unsuitable for the function.

In a assertion on Twitter, Mr Abbott mentioned: “A UK-Australia commerce deal, maximising the motion of products, companies and other people is clearly in the very best pursuits of each our international locations.

“It is vital for the broader world that Britain take advantage of its post-Brexit alternatives and I’m proud to be taking part in a component.

“My authorities finalised commerce offers between Australia and China, Japan and Korea. I am trying ahead to bringing that experience to bear as Britain works in the direction of mutually-beneficial enhancements with its main buying and selling companions.”

‘Historical past of offensive statements’

However Labour shadow commerce secretary Emily Thornberry instructed Radio 4’s At present programme Mr Abbott ought to have been disqualified from the function.

She mentioned: “First is his historical past of offensive statements in the direction of ladies, LGBT individuals, minority teams – the record is so lengthy and so despicable that I feel it speaks to his character and his values, and I do not assume that is a personality we must always have representing Britain around the globe.

“However secondly, I simply do not assume that he is the correct particular person to advise Britain on its commerce coverage.

“He was by no means concerned in detailed commerce negotiations. There have been many individuals who did the spade work, and he turned up and signed them. And he thinks that points like local weather change and employees’ rights aren’t vital.”

Alexander Downer, a former Australian excessive commissioner to the UK, rejected options his ally Mr Abbott was a misogynist.

He instructed At present: “He isn’t a misogynist, he has appointed many ladies to positions – he was appointed to this place by a lady.

“I do not assume it stacks up, I feel it is simply get together politicking.”

Mr Downer added that the “enormous” commerce offers achieved whereas Mr Abbott was PM had been a “exceptional achievement”.

‘Difficult voices’

Different advisers to the Board of Commerce will embody former Labour well being secretary Patricia Hewitt, ex-Conservative Member of the European Parliament Daniel Hannan and Anne Boden, founding father of the online-only financial institution Starling.

Ms Boden tweeted that she was “happy” to be advising the Board of Commerce, and that it was “vital” to have “difficult voices” chatting with ministers.

However the monetary know-how knowledgeable added that she supported variety and “so did this girl”, linking to a 2012 speech by one other former Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, during which she accused Mr Abbott of being a misogynist within the Australian parliament.

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Media captionThe BBC’s Jonathan Blake breaks down the following spherical of Brexit negotiations

The UK is at present trying to agree its personal commerce agreements for the primary time in additional than 40 years after leaving the European Union in January.

It’s conducting negotiations with the US, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

The Board of Commerce will meet 4 instances a yr.

The Division for Worldwide Commerce has careworn that advisers to the board could have “no direct function in placing commerce offers”.

Commerce Secretary Liz Truss mentioned: “The brand new Board of Commerce will play an vital function in serving to Britain make the case without spending a dime and truthful commerce throughout the UK and around the globe.”

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