Ian Botham: trade envoy to Australia role explained, why is he a lord - and what did he say about Brexit?

Botham has been announced as one of 10 trade envoys the Government hopes will help in ‘delivering an ambitious global trade agenda’

Former England cricket captain Lord Ian Botham has been appointed by the Government as a trade envoy to Australia.

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.

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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.

But who is Botham, and why has he been made a trade envoy?

Here is everything you need to know about it.

Who is Lord Ian Botham?

Botham is one of England’s greatest cricketers with 5,200 test runs and 383 wickets, but his sporting exploits were not reserved to the cricket pitch, with the Cheshire native swapping the pads for boots and turning out for Yeovil and Scunthorpe in the Football League.

Since retirement from the cricket field, Botham has moved to the commentary box as well as serving as Durham County Cricket Club’s chairman since 2017.

The 64-year-old was knighted in 2007 in recognition of his services to charity and cricket, having completed several charity walks between Land’s End and John O’Groats for leukaemia research.

On the political front, Botham has been a critic of the EU in the past, and supported the campaign to leave the trading bloc in 2016 - his peerage was awarded in 2020 for his support of Brexit.

He appeared at a County Durham event with Boris Johnson in the lead-up to the 2016 referendum and said: “I have been lucky enough to grow up in a wonderful country, a country that has always been able to look after itself.”

But he felt power has been “eroded by Brussels”, adding: “I think, hang on, enough’s enough.”

What does a trade envoy do?

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said Lord Botham would “bat for British business Down Under,” and would “play a key role in delivering our ambitious global trade agenda.”

She added: “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 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.”

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.”

Why has Botham been made a trade envoy?

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Botham “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.”

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.”

But others welcomed the announcement, including Australia’s High Commissioner to the UK, George Brandis.

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.”

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