Britain named former Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, as a trade adviser on Friday, rejecting complaints from critics that his conservative views about women and gay people made him unfit to represent the United Kingdom.
Some British lawmakers, including the leader of the opposition Labour Party Keir Starmer, have said Abbott, 62, who led Australia from 2013-2015, was not suitable for the job.
The government said on Friday he would become an adviser to Britain’s Board of Trade, which was relaunched in 2017 to champion export and inward investment after Brexit. It is supported by leading figures from the world of politics and business who act as advisers.
“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.
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.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has repeatedly refused to bow to what he sees as 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.
“And Australia… it’s an amazing country it’s a freedom-loving country, it’s a liberal country. There you go – I think that speaks for itself.”
Britain is racing to strike trade deals with countries around the world before it fully leaves the European Union at the end of this year.
Other advisers to the Board include the head of the Scottish Whisky Association Karen Betts, Brexit supporter Daniel Hannan and the head of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd.