The 65-year-old cricket star’s new appointment was announced by International Trade Secretary Liz Truss via Twitter on Monday morning.
She wrote that he would “bat for business Down Under” and do a “brilliant job”.
But scores of commentators seemed less optimistic about his capabilities in the role, suggesting the sporting legend – widely known as “Beefy” – had been awarded the honour thanks to his avid support of Brexit.
Here’s what critics had to say:
Botham’s qualifications to become a no.10 business Tsar to Australia?
He played Cricket
He was m… https://t.co/zkwFeQv1BE
A number shared excerpts from an interview he gave to the Guardian in November 2020 on his appointment to the House of 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.”
However, others were quick to praise the development, insisting Botham – who led the England Test cricket team between 1980 and 1981 – was more than fit for the job:
@trussliz @BeefyBotham Marvellous news Liz and what a fantastic appointment!
Australia looks forward to welcoming… https://t.co/rib15PQc27
Meanwhile Lord Botham, who was ennobled last year by Boris Johnson, has also spoken out about his new gig.
He told The Sun: “It’s a great honour to carry out this role in a country that I love and have come to know so well.
“I have spent a significant amount of my career in Australia, and I am excited to have the opportunity.”
Alongside his illustrious sporting career, the 65-year old has been the subject of a number of controversies over the years, including cannabis use, the revelation that he’d had an extramarital affair with an Australian waitress, and the sending of an explicit photo from his Twitter account.
He is one of ten new unpaid trade tsars appointed by the Government to boost UK plc in overseas markets. 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.
They include former Labour MP Baroness Hoey who has been appointed to Ghana, Stephen Timms MP (Labour) who has been appointed for Switzerland and Liechtenstein, David Mundell MP (Conservative) for New Zealand, and Mark Eastwood MP (Conservative) for Pakistan.
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.
Hailing the appointments, Truss said: “I am delighted the prime minister has appointed ten 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.”
It comes just weeks after the International Trade Secretary declared that a trade deal with Australia would be fully drafted by the end of the year.
The deal was agreed in principle in June, and will see many tariffs removed between the Commonwealth country and the UK.
However, the legal text is yet to be hammered out, prompting Truss to clarify that lawyers will have finalised the small print before 2022.
“We’re going through the same process that we went through with Japan,” she told MPs on the International Trade Committee at the start of July.
“You reach an agreement in principle which is really addressing a lot of the knotty issues and showing the deal can be done, but then there is further work to translate that into legal text,” she said.
“We need to get the text right. I am not going to give a commitment of a definite date. But we are hoping to complete that towards the end of this year.”
The deal will remove £124 million in tariffs paid by UK exporters each year, and £34 million for Australian exporters, Truss said.
However it has been criticised by many British farmers who are worried about being undercut by food, especially meat, from Australia.
MPs also raised questions about how environmentally friendly it is to ship food to and from the other side of the world.
Truss argued that producing some products in Australia and New Zealand is more climate friendly, and that emissions from shipping are low.
“In many cases it can be more environmentally friendly trading these products than producing them locally,” she said.
“You have to take it on a case-by-case basis, but the logic of your argument is that you wouldn’t trade with anybody, even across the UK and we would all just eat food from our local village.”
Let’s see how Botham gets on in flogging British produce abroad...