Australia’s ex-PM says UK should not fear hard Brexit as more than 50% of trade outside EU

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Mr Abbott said he hopes Brussels “comes to its senses” and offers Britain a free-trade deal such as the one the EU has with Canada. He told MP’s yesterday: “I certainly think that Britain should not fear a so-called hard exit. I certainly hope that the EU comes to its senses and offers Britain at least a Canada-style free-trade deal.”

Mr Abbott pointed out Australia has been doing Aus$100 billion (£55billion) in trade with the European Union on a no deal basis for many years.

He said that Britain currently does just over 50 percent of its trade with countries outside of the EU on a no deal basis.

The former Australian prime minister added: “No one in Britain should be too angst-ridden about a so-called hard Brexit because Britain is already doing so much on a no deal basis anyway.”

Hailing Britain’s contributions to the modern world – the English language, a parliamentary democracy, the industrial revolution, the emancipation of minorities – Mr Abbott said many Australians “cheered mightily” when the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016.

The Brexiteer also told the Foreign Affairs select committee he has spoken to ministers about taking on a role that would see him “bang the drum” for Britain around the world.

“I have had some discussions with members of the British government,” he confirmed.

“I am more than happy to help but there is nothing official as yet.”

He declined to offer details of his possible role but 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.”

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.

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 some criticism from MPs.

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

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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”.

Speaking to Jo Coburn on the BBC’s Politics Live, Ms Nokes said: “I am not sure I can come up with words for how awful I think it is.

“He has very poor views on LGBTQ rights, and I just don’t think this is a man who should be anywhere near our board of trade.”

The former Australian prime minister is said to have struck up a friendship with Mr Johnson when he was foreign secretary.

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