U.K. Names Former Australian Premier Tony Abbott as Trade Adviser

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The U.K. named former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as an adviser to its board of trade on Friday in the face of criticism from opposition lawmakers and civil rights groups over his views on women, sexuality and climate change.

Abbott, an ardent Brexit supporter, will be one of a 16-member panel of advisers, including Oxford University economist Linda Yueh, Daniel Hannan, a Conservative former member of the European Parliament, and Patricia Hewitt, who was trade secretary in Tony Blair’s Labour government.

The board will meet quarterly and use their influence to help the country make a stronger case for free trade, the Department for International Trade said in a statement.

“At a time of increased protectionism and global insecurity, it’s vital that the U.K. is a strong voice for open markets and that we play a meaningful role in reshaping global trading rules alongside like-minded countries,” Trade Secretary Liz Truss said. “The new board will help us do that.”

Since it was reported Abbott would advise the U.K. on trade last week, the decision has been criticized over comments made by the former premier about women, gay rights and climate change. On Thursday, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, Marsha de Cordova, wrote to Truss describing Abbott’s views as “offensive and outdated.”

Before the formal announcement on Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked in a pooled television interview about Abbott’s opinions.

“I obviously don’t agree with those sentiments at all,” Johnson said. “But then I don’t agree with everyone who serves the government in an unpaid capacity on hundreds of boards across the country. And I can’t be expected to do so.”

Also announced as members of the Board of Trade on Friday were the secretaries of state for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Alister Jack, Simon Hart and Brandon Lewis, four junior ministers, City of London Lord Mayor William Russell, Environment Agency Chairman Emma Howard Boyd, and former Bloomberg NEF Chief Executive Officer Michael Liebreich.

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