Lord Botham has been announced as one of 10 trade envoys the Government hopes will help in “delivering an ambitious global trade agenda”.
The peer, who was ennobled last year by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, led the England Test cricket team between 1980 and 1981, including in two Ashes series against Australia.
The other nine new envoys are all parliamentarians, sitting in either the House of Lords or as MPs, and have been selected from across different political parties.
She added: “Our trade envoys play a key role in delivering our ambitious global trade agenda, and I am delighted the Prime Minister has appointed 10 trade envoys who will boost opportunities for British businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing markets.
“By boosting exports, promoting inward investment and creating high-value, high-paying jobs, our trade envoys will help us build back better from Covid-19, ensuring every part of the UK benefits from our trade strategy.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman added: “He has business experience in that country, he knows the people well and we’re confident that he can help British businesses sell more products to our Australian counterparts.”
Alongside Lord Botham’s appointment as trade envoy to Australia, former Labour MP and now non-affiliated peer Baroness Hoey has been appointed to Ghana, Stephen Timms MP (Labour) has been appointed to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, David Mundell MP (Conservative) has been appointed to New Zealand, and Mark Eastwood MP (Conservative) has been appointed to Pakistan.
Marco Longhi MP (Conservative) has been appointed to Brazil, Conor Burns MP (Conservative) has been appointed to Canada, non-affiliated peer Lord Walney, John Woodcock, has been appointed to Tanzania, Felicity Buchan MP (Conservative) has been appointed to Iceland and Norway, and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP (DUP) has been appointed to Cameroon, in addition to his role as Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Egypt.
The roles are all unpaid and voluntary and take the total number of trade envoys who help support the UK Government’s “trade and investment agenda” to 36, covering 76 different countries.
Trade policy minister Greg Hands said: “From Norway to New Zealand, Pakistan to Brazil, our trade envoys will help increase UK trade with some of the world’s most exciting and dynamic markets and showcase the UK as a great place to invest.”
Lord Botham has been a critic of the EU in the past, and supported the campaign to leave the trading bloc in 2016.
Some on social media were dubious about Lord Botham’s appointment to the role, with many sharing excerpts from an interview he gave to the Guardian in November 2020 on his appointment to the Lords.
In it, he said: “I’m enjoying it and will be at Westminster more often when we get back to normal, especially when they are debating something I know about – like sport or the countryside. Not much point if it’s a trade deal with Japan.”
Sam Lowe, a research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, wrote on Twitter: “The role of a trade envoy is to occasionally go abroad and talk up the UK and UK companies (and to make backbenchers feel special). That’s it. It’s fine.”
But others welcomed the announcement, including Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK, George Brandis.
Mr Brandis said the appointment was “marvellous news”, adding: “Australia looks forward to welcoming Lord Botham down under — and to working with him to strengthen the trading links between our two countries.”