Boris Johnson ‘to draft in Australian ex-PM Tony Abbott’ for post-Brexit trade push
The former Australian leader has been a vocal champion of Brexit. (PA)
Boris Johnson is drafting in former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott to help lead a post-Brexit drive to boost Britain’s trade ties around the world, it has been reported.
According to The Sun, the ex-leader of Australia’s Liberal Party is set to be appointed as joint president of the UK’s revamped Board of Trade.
The Board’s aim is to drive UK exports and inward investment “to deliver economic growth and prosperity“ and it has traditionally been led by figures from British business.
The centuries-old body was reconstituted in 2017 in the wake of the EU referendum.
Mr Abbott led Australia from 2013 to 2015 and has previously spoken out strongly in favour of Brexit.
Speaking at the Oxford Union debating society last year, he said failure to make good on the 2016 referendum result would represent “defeat on an epic scale, hardly matched since the Norman invasion”.
And he said: “No country on earth should be more capable than Britain of standing on its own two feet.
“That, surely is what's crying out now for remembrance, amidst all the declinism and defeatism - because if Brexit fails, Britain fails.”
A Whitehall source told The Sun: “We are delighted to have him on board.”
But a spokesperson for the British High Commissioner in Australia described the report as "premature".
Pressed on the report on Wednesday morning, current Australian PM Scott Morrisson said: “Good hire. I think that’s a good hire... Well done Boris.”
Meanwhile, Labour branded the appointment "shameful", with Shadow International Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry describing Abbott as an "offensive, aggressive, leering, gaffe-prone misogynist".
Controversial comments by the former Liberal Party leader were famously highlighted by then-prime minister Julia Gillard in 2013, in what became known as the "Misogyny Speech".
The row came about as the opposition attempted to remove the House's Speaker Peter Slipper over reportedly sexist texts he had sent to an aide.
Ms Gillard said: "If he [Abbott] wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn't need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror. That's what he needs."
Ms Thornberry said Mr Abbott was "someone with no hands-on experience of negotiating trade agreements, who denies the climate change that we believe should be at the heart of our trade policy, and who clearly has no concept of the importance of Britain's trade with the EU".
She added: "He was ousted by his own colleagues after just two years in power, and rejected by his own constituents just last year. They are the people who know him best, and wanted rid of him, yet here we are now, hiring him to negotiate our trade deals around the world.
"It's yet more breathtaking incompetence from a government that has turned it into an art-form."