In light of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the UK, Al Arabiya News Channel spoke to British MPs on Saudi-UK ties.
Conservative MP Philip Hollobone, Leo Docherty and the Saudi-British Parliamentary Committee Chairman Mark Menzies stressed on the UK and Saudi Arabia's close relationship.
On the crown prince’s visit, Hollobone said that the royal visit “will help to cement those relations closer than ever.”
The MP also said that he hopes that this visit will “usher in a new era of even better and closer cooperation between our two kingdoms because the United Kingdom is important to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” and vice versa. “I do think this is a very important visit and it is also an opportunity to celebrate what is a very warm and very important relationship across many sectors,” said MP Docherty.
Similarly, Hollobone said that on both occasions of his visit to Saudi Arabia, he had “favourable impressions.” The MP said that part of the challenges in the Saudi-UK relationship is “to explain to the people of the United Kingdom the benefit of even closer cooperation and the fact we [are] very close friends and the benefit of this to both our kingdoms.”
On reform and social change in Saudi Arabia, the MPs were impressed witht the “tremendous” reform the country is undergoing. Hollobone said: “Vision 2030 is an inspired concept led by the crown prince it will bring many benefits to Saudi Arabia and I think it will help the west to better understand the kingdom, I think it is a very welcome development, very much in the best interest of the kingdom itself and I think it will help integrate further Saudi Arabia into the world.”
Bilateral Saudi-UK relations
In Hollonbone’s opinion: “The strongest part of the relationship is the security cooperation. The fact is that, Saudi Arabia is a key intelligence partner for the United Kingdom in the Middle East, and without Saudi involvement there would have been more terrorist’s attacks on the streets here in London with more British people being killed. So the United Kingdom is very grateful for Saudi Arabia’s help in tackling the threat from terrorism.”
Also, the MP said that he expects more talks between both kingdoms on their “security relationship,” how they can support one another and how to “expand trade” between both of them.
On his end, Docherty said that: “Clearly, economically there is a great challenge for the kingdom to diversify its economy and to bring more Saudis into professions they would not normally have done and also there is a huge challenge underway to bring in more female members of the population in the work place. But actually, having travelled to Saudi Arabia and having been to many businesses I have been consistently impressed at the amazing standard of female Saudis in the work place.”
At the same time, Hollonbone said that one issue at hand is the British people’s misconception of Saudi Arabia. He said: “This is one of the big issues, most people in the UK really have no idea what modern Saudi Arabia is like, how friendly, welcoming, intelligent, and respectful modern Saudi Arabians are. I think the more we can tell the British people about the benefits of Saudi Arabia, the better that would be both for the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
The MP sees that all the changes happening in Saudi Arabia will help the British people understand the new Saudi Arabia. He said: “One of the key changes recently is the issue with the veil, with women in Saudi Arabia increasingly not wearing the full face veil, having more freedom to do with driving, attending sporting events, the opening of cinemas. All these developments which we take for granted in the West, the more the British people understand what is happening in Saudi Arabia I think, the greater the benefits they will see of even a closer cooperation.”
Youth of Saudi Arabia are the future
Speaking to the youth of Saudi Arabia, Hollobone said: “My message to the young’s of Saudi Arabia is what a fantastic country you have been fortunate enough to be born into. The world is your oyster, and many of these young people come to the United Kingdom to study and to work and to learn English which they do extremely well. I think the youth of Saudi Arabia have a great chance to build even a better future for their country in the wider world.”
For Docherty, he sees that the challenge ahead of the Saudi youth “would be when the kingdom moves from petro hydrocarbon based economy which relied entirely on the supply of oil to drive its economy. The challenge now is to bring all of these young people into the work place to work hard and use your own ingenuity and effort to achieve your potential in the work place.”
Saudis helped to stop attacks in the UK
According to Hollobone, Saudi Arabia played a role in stopping terrorist attacks in the UK. On this he said: “Head of the intelligence service in the UK has made it clear that without Saudi intelligence and Saudi cooperation, there would have been more terrorist attacks in London with more fatalities.”
“We owe the kingdom of Saudi Arabia a great debt of thanks for their help in combatting terrorism,” he added.
On the UK’s role in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, Hollobone said: “British companies have a wide range of expertise that would be relevant for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Defence, oil and petrochemicals, transport infrastructure, chemical developments, education and there will be many more.”
The MPs see that it would be beneficial if both nations were to increase trade and service cooperation.
Hollobone sees that Saudi-UK collaborations will bring on opportunity to tackle big issues in the region. He said: “I should think there is a lots of discussion between her majesty’s government here in the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia about defence and security issues. Saudi Arabia is a key country in the middle east, it is a zone of stability and security and we need Saudi Arabia to act as a bolster against Iran and its increased sponsorship of terrorism, not only in the Middle East and the Gulf, but further afield. So Saudi Arabia is absolutely a key country in the region and I hope the cooperation between UK and KSA goes from strength to strength.”
Finally, discussing latest updates on the UK’s decision to Brexit, the Hollobone said: “Brexit is a great news for the UK. Britain is going to be more prosperous and a happier country in ten years’ time than it is at the moment because of Brexit, and we need to strike trade deals with key upcoming countries such as Saudi Arabia and especially given the trade we have in defence at the moment. I hope we can build on that relationship a free trade relationship in the future.”SHOW MORE