Tony Abbott admitted this week to having ‘discussions with members of the British government’ but stressed ‘there is nothing official as yet’.
As criticism mounted over his expected appointment to the UK Board of Trade, Downing Street reiterated yesterday that ‘no decision’ has yet been made.
Mr Abbott, who was born in London but moved to Australia at the age of two, is close to Boris Johnson and an ardent Brexit supporter.
Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, who is lined up for a key Brexit trade role, could miss out on the job following a revolt over his comments on everything from coronavirus to homosexuality
Mr Abbott, who was born in London but moved to Australia at the age of two, is close to Boris Johnson and an ardent Brexit supporter
He has championed the idea of Britain striking trade deals without the EU.
He is also a climate change sceptic who believes lockdown rules should be scrapped, claiming 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.
In addition, he was accused of misogyny in Australia’s parliament by the then prime minister, Julia Gillard.
Pressed on Mr Abbott’s suitability for a trade role yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he did not believe he is homophobic or misogynistic.
‘I bow to nobody in my support for everybody to love who they love,’ Mr Hancock said. ‘But we need to have the best experts in the world working in their field and the former prime minister of Australia has a huge amount of experience.’
His comments came despite widespread opposition to hiring Mr Abbott, including from Conservative MPs.
Caroline Nokes, Tory chairman of the women and equalities select committee, told the BBC: ‘I just don’t think this is a man who should be anywhere near our Board of Trade.’
Describing his expected appointment as ‘awful’, she added: ‘Is he the sort of man I want to be representing us globally? No.’
Pressed on Mr Abbott’s suitability for a trade role yesterday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he did not believe he is homophobic or misogynistic
The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon said Mr Abbott’s coronavirus views were ‘deeply offensive and wrong’, adding that he is not fit to be a trade envoy.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘I have real concerns about Tony Abbott and I don’t think he’s the right person for the job. If I was prime minister I wouldn’t appoint him.’
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss later said: ‘I think it’s absolute hypocrisy to hear this type of argument from the Labour Party. The reality is they’d rather virtue-signal and indulge in tokenism than take real action to improve the lives of women.’
No 10 declined to comment on the ‘political debate’ surrounding Mr Abbott, who served as prime minister in Australia for just two years before being ousted by his own Liberal Party in 2015.