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Tony Abbott in talks over Brexit trade role with UK government

Tony Abbott Image copyright EPA Image caption Tony Abbott is in the UK for 10 days

Former prime minister of Australia Tony Abbott says he has spoken to British ministers about taking on a role in post-Brexit trade talks.

“I have had some discussions with members of the British government. I am more than happy to help but there is nothing official as yet,” he told MPs.

He told the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee the UK should “not fear a so-called hard exit” from the EU.

He declined to offer details of his possible role with the UK government.

But he added: “I would be doing it as a private citizen. I don’t think there would be any requirement for Australian government approval.”

He told the committee: “As far as I’m concerned, it would be in both Britain’s interests and Australia’s interests to conclude a very full and comprehensive free trade deal as quickly as possible.”

‘No deal basis’

This should include “no tariffs or quotas on goods, full mutual recognition of standards and qualifications” and “freeish movement of people for work not welfare,” he added.

He said he hoped the EU “comes to its senses” and offers the UK “at least a Canada-style free trade deal”.

But he added that the UK should not fear a “no deal” exit, as it was “already doing so much on a no deal basis anyway”.

Mr Abbott, who was taking part in an online meeting with the select committee, is in the UK for 10 days.

He said he had been granted permission to travel from Australia, where the borders are currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but he will be spending 14 days in “hotel quarantine” on his return, at his own expense.

Reports that Mr Abbott, who was Australia’s prime minister between 2013 and 2015 is being lined up to work alongside International Trade Secretary Liz Truss have been met with anger from UK opposition parties and some Conservative MPs.

‘Bad idea’

Labour’s shadow International Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry described Mr Abbott as a “Trump-worshipping misogynist,” adding that it was “staggering” that Prime Minister Boris Johnson would think he was “the right person to represent our country overseas”.

Conservative former minister Caroline Nokes, who chairs the Women and Equalities select committee, said appointing Mr Abbott to a Brexit trade talks role would be “such a bad idea”.


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Media captionCaroline Nokes says appointing former Australian PM Tony Abbott as a UK trade representative would be “awful”  » Read More at bbc.co.uk