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Ex-Labour MP Ian Austin becomes May's trade envoy to Israel

AN MP who quit Labour in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has been appointed as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Israel.

Ian Austin abandoned the Labour Party in February to become an independent member.

The long-standing critic of Jeremy Corbyn, who swore at and heckled the leader during his public apology to the people of Iraq for the 2003 invasion of the country, claimed there was a “culture” of anti-semitism in Labour.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Theresa May approved his appointment as her trade envoy to Israel.

The decision was announced by trade minister Liam Fox who described it as an “unpaid and voluntary” role to “support the UK’s ambitious trade and investment agenda in global markets.”

Mr Austin told the Jewish News: “Trade with Israel is worth billions to Britain, it has resulted in investment and jobs in businesses across the UK.

“I’m looking forward to working with the Department for Trade 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.”

Although Mr Austin has quit Labour, he remains listed as a parliamentary supporter of Labour Friends of Israel on the group’s website.

The group congratulated him on Twitter and said: “We look forward to working with you to further boost the record levels of trade and collaboration between the UK and Israel.”

The government has approved arms export licenses worth £329 million to Israel since January 2016, making it one of the top 10 customers for British weaponry.

Campaign group War on Want told the Morning Star that Mr Austin should use his new role to “call for the immediate suspension of trade with Israel.”

Spokesperson Ryvka Barnard warned: “Otherwise, he will be facilitating trade with a regime that uses its international business connections to bolster its illegal settlements and its repressive military and security apparatus.”

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