Monday, 21 Sep 2020

Tony Abbott’s ‘abrasive style’ will push US/UK trade deal to back of the queue

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The former Australian Prime Minister is in talks to become joint president of the relaunched Board of Trade. But critics have raised a number of concerns about his views of women and homosexuality.

Labour MPs have said comments he made in the past make him a “misogynist”, something which the former prime minister denies.

Mr Abbott – who was ousted by his own party in 2015 – is also opposed to gay marriage.

But as well as his views on women and gay marriage, an expert has warned Mr Abbott will jeopardise a Brexit trade deal with the US.

Professor Alex de Ruyter, director of the Centre for Brexit Studies at Birmingham City University, told “This is a man who was PM for two years until his own party dumped him.

“His time in office was spent denying climate change and propping up the coal industry.

“More seriously, apart from his well-attested misogyny, Abbott has shown scant regard for issues such as labour rights or environmental standards and appointing him would send a signal that the UK Government will pursue trade agreements that can only result in a lowering of such standards in the UK.

“I would suggest that the fate of Trump will be pivotal – if Biden wins much of the wind will be taken out of their sails as I suspect the Democrats will look to rebuild bridges with the EU and embrace multilateralism; a trade deal with Brexit Britain will – to paraphrase Barrack Obama – return to the back of the queue.”

Professor de Ruyter, who was born in Australia, goes on to explain how Mr Abbott’s “abrasive style” would alienate a US trade deal.

He continued: “Abbott styles himself as a strongman but his abrasive style would alienate the above, leaving who – China, Russia, India, Turkey, North Korea?

“It is hard to see a trade deal with any of these countries as being

“His comments on much business already being done as if No Deal were in place seem bizarre.

“Given that the EU accounts for half of our trade, this is palpably not the case.”

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Earlier this week, health secretary Matt Hancock backed the former premier and said he does not believe Mr Abbott is homophobic or misogynistic.

Appearing on Sky News, Mr Hancock, wearing an NHS badge with the LGBTQ rainbow flag, was asked about whether Mr Abbott was suitable to represent the UK.

He said: ”I bow to nobody in my support for everybody to love whom they love, whoever that is.

“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.”

Mr Hancock said “I don’t think that’s true” when pressed about allegations of homophobia and misogyny.

But Sky’s Kay Burley said “he’s a homophobe and he’s a misogynist”, to which Mr Hancock replied: “He’s also an expert in trade”.

Opposition MPs have been highly critical of the defence, with shadow minister Peter Kyle saying ministers “don’t even pretend not to embrace bigots anymore”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also 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.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Mr Abbott’s coronavirus views are “deeply offensive and wrong” and he is not fit to be a trade envoy.

Ms Sturgeon said: ”But Tony Abbott, before these comments, is a misogynist, he’s a sexist, he’s a climate change denier.”

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