Tony Abbott appointed UK trade envoy despite backlash

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has been appointed to the UK Government's relaunched Board of Trade despite a furious backlash.  

The Department for International Trade announced this evening Mr Abbott has been made one of the board's advisers. 

He had been widely tipped for the role but Downing Street was under intense pressure not to go ahead with the move because of comments he has made in the past. 

The confirmation of his appointment came after Boris Johnson had defended him and said he is a 'guy who was elected by the people of the great liberal democratic nation of Australia'. 

The Prime Minister said he did not agree with Mr Abbott's views on some issues 'but then I don't agree with everyone who serves the Government in an unpaid capacity on hundreds of boards across the country'. 

Sir Ian McKellen had earlier led calls from environmental and equality activists for the Government not to appoint Mr Abbott to the role.  

An open letter signed by Sir Ian, as well as Doctor Who screenwriter Russell T Davies and 24 other activists, urged ministers to reconsider the appointment and claimed Mr Abbott is 'not fit to be representing the UK'. 

Mr Abbott is a climate change sceptic who recently said he believes coronavirus lockdown rules should be scrapped, arguing that nature should be allowed to 'take its course'.

He has previously said he feels 'a bit threatened' by homosexuality and opposed same-sex marriage. He was accused of misogyny and sexism in Australia's parliament by the then prime minister, Julia Gillard, in 2012. 

Ms Gillard said this morning she stood by every word of what she said about Mr Abbott eight years ago but would not be drawn on whether he should be appointed to the trade envoy role, saying it was a 'decision for the UK Government'. 

However, allies of Mr Abbott leapt to his defence with his sister saying it was 'nothing short of dishonesty' to label her brother a 'homophobe and a misogynist' while former colleagues described him as a 'giant of Australian politics'.  

Boris Johnson today defended Tony Abbott as 'a guy who was elected by the people of the great liberal democratic nation of Australia'

Boris Johnson today defended Tony Abbott as 'a guy who was elected by the people of the great liberal democratic nation of Australia' 

Mr Abbott, the former prime minister of Australia, has been appointed to the UK Government's relaunched Board of Trade despite a growing backlash over his past comments

Mr Abbott, the former prime minister of Australia, has been appointed to the UK Government's relaunched Board of Trade despite a growing backlash over his past comments

The Department for International Trade said the new Board of Trade will meet quarterly and use its influence to 'help Britain make a stronger case for free trade on the international stage'.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said the board will bring together a 'diverse group of people who share Britain’s belief in free enterprise, democracy, and high standards and rules-based trade'. 

But the decision to appoint Mr Abbott as one of the board's 16 advisers is likely to cause a political firestorm. 

Asked during a visit to Solihull this afternoon about accusations Mr Abbott is a sexist, homophobic, misogynist, climate change denier, Mr Johnson said: 'There's going to be an announcement I think in due course about the composition of the Board of Trade.

'I don't, obviously don't agree with those sentiments at all, but then I don't agree with everyone who serves

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