MP who quit Labour over antisemitism appointed trade envoy to Israel

Austin resigned from Labour in February after 35 years as a member of the party and 14 years as an MP.

By
July 22, 2019 05:37
2 minute read.
The Houses of Parliament can be seen during sunrise on the day of the Summer Solstice, seen from ato

The Houses of Parliament can be seen during sunrise on the day of the Summer Solstice, seen from atop the London Eye, in London, Britain June 21, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/HENRY NICHOLLS)

Independent British MP Ian Austin, who quit the Labour Party in February over antisemitism in the party, has been appointed as Prime Minister Theresa May’s trade envoy to Israel.


MP for the Dudley North constituency since May 2005, Austin was appointed on Thursday to the unpaid role, which aims to support the UK’s “ambitious trade and investment agenda in global markets.”
There are currently 27 British lawmakers serving as envoys to 58 markets worldwide under the prime minister’s cross-party Trade Envoy program.


“Trade with Israel is worth billions to Britain, it has resulted in investment and jobs in businesses across the UK, including here in the Black Country and in Dudley too,” Austin told The Jewish Chronicle. “I’m looking forward to working with the [UK Trade Department] and the brilliant team at our embassy in Israel, who are working so hard to help British companies win business in Israel and strengthen the trading relationship between the two countries.”


Austin resigned from Labour in February after 35 years as a member of the party and 14 years as an MP, opting to sit as an independent lawmaker rather than join The Independent Group alongside other former Labour colleagues.


“The Labour Party has been my life, so this has been the hardest decision I have ever had to take, but I have to be honest and the truth is that I have become ashamed of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn,” Austin told The Express & Star newspaper in announcing his resignation. “The hard truth is that the party is tougher on the people complaining about antisemitism than it is on the antisemites.”


In February, Economy Minister Eli Cohen and British Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox put pen to paper on a UK-Israel bilateral trade continuity agreement ahead of the UK’s expected exit from the European Union.


The agreement aims to ensure seamless, post-Brexit continuity in existing trade between the countries, whether the UK leaves the 28-member union with or without a deal.


The deal is based on the existing EU-Israel Association Agreement through which bilateral trade has been conducted between the countries for almost two decades, and includes a government procurement access agreement and a conformity assessment agreement.


Britain will no longer benefit from the EU-Israel agreement after Brexit, as will be the case for several dozen other free-trade agreements that the EU has negotiated over the last two decades with almost 60 non-EU countries.


Britain is Israel’s leading export destination within the EU, with bilateral trade repeatedly breaking records in recent years, reaching $7.2 billion in 2016, $9.1b. in 2017 and approximately $11b. in 2018.


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