Britain names former Australian PM Abbott as trade adviser

FILE PHOTO: Australia's former Prime Minister Tony Abbott attends Britain's annual Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain named former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott as a trade adviser on Friday, rejecting criticism that his conservative views on gender, same sex marriage and climate change made him unfit to represent the United Kingdom.

Some British lawmakers, including the leader of the opposition Keir Starmer, Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon and a member of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s own party, Caroline Nokes, have said Abbott was not suitable for the job.

The 62-year-old, who led Australia from 2013-2015, supported Britain’s exit from the European Union. He joins Daniel Hannan, another Brexit supporter and former member of the European Parliament, in becoming advisers to Britain’s Board of Trade.

“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,” Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, said in a statement.

Board members and advisers meet quarterly to make a case for free trade and engage with industry.

Abbott has attracted criticism from British opposition politicians and media outlets over his views on homosexuality, gender, climate change and COVID following reports he had been linked with the job. He has rejected accusations of misogyny.

The opposition Labour Party said Abbott was not experienced in detailed trade negotiations, had a history of offensive statements and questioned why he had been given the role.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has repeatedly refused to bow to what he sees as fleeting media storms, defended Abbott before the appointment was announced on Friday.

“This is a guy who was elected by the people of the great liberal democratic nation of Australia,” he said.

Anne Boden, another adviser and head of Starling Bank, said she was pleased to have been selected and added that she supported diversity just like Julia Gillard. Gillard, Australia’s only female prime minister, attacked Abbott for misogyny in a parliamentary showdown that went viral on social media.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Stephen Addison and Hugh Lawson)

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