Thank you for contacting me about the former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott upon his appointment to the UK’s Board of Trade.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have received many emails from concerned members of the public in my Islington South and Finsbury constituency, as well as from the rest of UK and from friends in Australia. People are rightly appalled that the UK government have appointed Abbott to a senior role promoting British trade deals around the world.

As the Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, I have been firm in my position that this appointment is completely unacceptable. When Abbott’s appointment to the UK’s Board of Trade was announced by the UK government, I said:

“Any way you look at it, this is an absolutely staggering appointment. On a personal level, it is shameful that Boris Johnson thinks this offensive, aggressive, leering, gaffe-prone misogynist is the right person to represent our country overseas. 

And on a professional level, this is 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.”

The Tories have taken the grotesque position that Abbott’s attitudes towards women, same-sex couples, immigrants and minority groups are irrelevant, and that his past comments don’t matter because they weren’t said in Britain. They argue that what really matters is Abbott’s trade credentials, but I believe he should be disqualified on those grounds as well.

Just look what he did when he took office in Australia in 2013, wilfully destroying what was left of the country’s car industry by slashing their financial support and goading overseas investors to quit. Any future trade deals that the UK government negotiates with other countries will directly impact the future of car manufacturing in the UK. Quite frankly, we cannot afford to let Tony Abbott do to Britain’s car industry what he did to Australia’s.

I am therefore glad that we can agree that – based on his attitudes and his record – Tony Abbott should not be representing the UK on the international stage.

Rest assured, I am going to continue to hold the UK government to account in relation to any further appointments to the Board of Trade which I do not believe are in the national interest, and I will hold them accountable for the appointment of Abbott the next time he says something that offends and insults millions of people, as he inevitably will.

I really appreciate you taking the time to email me with your concerns. If you have any further points you would like to raise with me about this issue or indeed any other, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Best wishes,

The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury
Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade

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