March 23, 2023

UK coronavirus live: close to 2,000 new Covid cases recorded – highest daily total since May

Daily case numbers have been rising for two months now, with 1,940 more today Staffordshire...

Daily case numbers have been rising for two months now, with 1,940 more today

5.48pm BST

Tony Abbott, the controversial Australian former prime minister, has been appointed as a UK trade envoy, the Department for International Trade has announced. That means Boris Johnson has ignored the multiple calls for Abbott not to be offered this job, which will be part-time and unpaid.

Abbott is one of 16 people who have been appointed as advisers to the Board of Trade. Seven of them are ministers. The other nine include Abbott, the former Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan (described by some as the godfather of Brexit) and the former Labour trade secretary Patricia Hewitt.

Board members and advisers will meet quarterly and use their influence to help Britain make a stronger case for free trade on the international stage, helping the government forge a stronger global consensus for free trade at a time of increased protectionism.

The board will engage extensively with industry, communities, farmers and consumer groups across the UK, to ensure a range of voices are heard as the UK develops its independent trade policy. The board will also encourage more businesses across the UK regions and nations to boost their international trade.

5.15pm BST

In his interview with Sky News in Solihull Boris Johnson was also asked about the concerns raised about the haulage industry about possible border chaos when the Brexit transition period ends next year. He restated his willingness to see the UK leave the transition period without a trade deal with the EU if necessary, and claimed the country would “prosper mightily” with or without a deal. He said:

We’re ready for any eventuality, of course. But we must make sure that people understand that at the end of the year, whatever happens, we are leaving the EU, and leaving the transition period, the implementation period. That is it.

That’s why it is vital that people who have questions, who have queries about what they need to do, get on to our websites, look at what they need to do to prepare, and certainly we will help them.

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