The Sun has reported that Tony Abbott, 62, will be unveiled as Liz Truss’ free-trading partner at the nation’s recently relaunched Board of Trade.
As joint-presidents of the Board of Trade, Abbott and Truss will be tasked with rallying support for the United Kingdom to sign free trade agreements with allies overseas.
Abbott served as Australia’s 28th Prime Minister following the Liberal and National Party’s coalition election victory in 2013. However, Abbott’s premiership was short-lived as he suffered from an internal party coup in 2015. Consequently, the former priest was replaced with his long-time political rival Malcolm Turnbull.
Abbott has been a champion of crucial institutions within the United Kingdom. In 1999, Abbott and Turnbull contested Australia’s tightly contested referendum that considered whether or not the nation should replace the monarchy as its head of state.
The monarchists, led by the Oxford-educated future Prime Minister, defeated Turnbull’s republicans and amassed 55 per cent of the vote in the process.
But the Lambeth-born antipodean has supported the United Kingdom in other essential policy areas. He was invited to give a speech in the 2019 Conservative Party conference in which he defended the UK’s decision to vote to leave the European Union.
Abbott has even tweeted his support for a WTO Brexit saying: “What’s wrong with no deal? Australia does $100 billion a year in trade with the EU without a deal”.
Since then Boris Johnson has altered his language on a no-deal exit from the European Union. The government’s new language describes an exit that would see Britain trade with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms as an “Australian-style” Brexit.
Government officials in London and Canberra have welcomed Abbott’s appointment. The current Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said that Abbott’s promotion was a “good hire” by Boris Johnson during his appearance on ABC News.
Whereas, in London, one Whitehall official told The Sun that “we are delighted to have him on board.” Nevertheless, Abbott’s appointment has sparked some opposition in the United Kingdom, especially within the Labour Party.
The Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, Emily Thornberry, attacked Abbott’s appointment and said that it was a “humiliation for the UK”. Thornberry added that she was “disgusted that Boris Johnson thinks this offensive, leering, cantankerous, climate-change-denying, Trump-worshipping misogynist is the right person to represent our country overseas”.
Abbott has been paying close attention to British politics recently. In an article for The Daily Telegraph and in a podcast with Nigel Farage, Abbott discussed the Dover dinghy debacle and even advocated for Boris Johnson to adopt similar policies to those that Australia implemented during his time as Prime Minister to counteract the migrant crisis in the south Pacific.
There are just 126-days until the conclusion of the eleventh month transition period between the United Kingdom and the European Union. After which, Britain will be able to sign its own independent trade deals for the first time in 47-years.
The United Kingdom is already in fast-moving discussions with many of its historic allies including Australia, New Zealand, and the United States of America. It will be Abbott’s task, accompanied by Liz Truss, to help invigorate the desire for a trade deal to be signed with both Britain’s old and new allies.
Nonetheless, Abbott’s appointment comes at a time where there is already appetite for trade deals to be completed. In the next week, it is expected that the UK’s will sign its first independent trade deal in almost half a decade when the British and Japanese agree to the proposed accord. That deal is expected to yield ever greater rewards than the EU-Japanese deal signed last year.
By J Walters