WATCH: First interview to an Arabic news channel by British PM May
Thursday, 8 December 2016
Al Arabiya aired on Wednesday an exclusive interview with British Prime Minister Theresa May. The interview that was conducted by Turki al-Dakhil is the first for the British PM on an Arab satellite channel since she took office.
Turki al-Dakhil tackled the Iranian nuclear agreement, the future of relations between Britain and the Gulf and May's likely plans for the leaders of the GCC summit in Manama. The interview also covers a number of other hot topics concerning the Gulf, Arab and international scene.
Theresa May was appointed prime minister on July 11, succeeding David Cameron who resigned after the Brexit referendum. May is the second woman to serve as UK prime minister after Margaret Thatcher, both of whom are Conservative Party members.
This is the full transcript below:
Al Arabiya News' Turki al-Dakhil “Prime Minister Theresa May, thank you so much for giving us time for this interview. I’ll start - we are in Bahrain, where you are guest of honor at the GCC Summit. What is your message to the GCC leaders?”
Prime Minister Theresa May Theresa May “Well, first of all, I’m very privileged to have been invited to address the GCC Summit. I believe I’m the first British Prime Minister Theresa May to be - have been invited to do this, and I think it’s a symbol of the longstanding and very good relations that the United Kingdom has with the GCC states. And my message in coming here is that I want to build on that relationship for the future. I think there are many areas in which we can work together to our mutual interest and our mutual benefit. That’s on trade and prosperity, but also on security. We recognize the importance of security here. I think that Gulf security is our security, Gulf prosperity is our prosperity, and I’m looking forward to working with the Gulf states to build on the historic relationships we have.”
Turki Al-Dakhil “Talking about security, Prime Minister Theresa May, Bahrain and other GCC countries feel Iran is interfering in its affairs. Do you share, Prime Minister Theresa May, the same concern with them?”
Theresa May “We’re very clear-eyed about Iran, and I share concerns about their malign activities. Malign involvement in a number of parts of the region. I think it’s important that we work with the Gulf states on ensuring the stability and security of the region. We have now in - are establishing here in Bahrain the first permanent military presence for the United Kingdom east of Suez since 1971. I think it’s important, an important symbol of the significance that we feel of the security of this region. Of course, I - today I was on our ship HMS Ocean, which is here, has been working to help to secure the stability and the security of the region.”
Turki Al-Dakhil “But Prime Minister Theresa May, do you see Iran stopping its aggressive behavior, if we can say?”
Theresa May “Well, obviously some action has already been taken in relation to Iran. The deal that has been struck in relation to the nuclear deal, such that Iran is not able to access a nuclear weapon, is important. But I think it’s important that we continue to challenge Iran’s malign activities in other areas too. That’s what we are continuing to do as the UK. And - but also, it’s important to work with the Gulf states to ensure their security. And to do that, as I say, we have a physical military presence here, which I think is an important part of that.”
Turki Al-Dakhil “Prime Minister Theresa May, many people in the GCC, normal people, and even leaders, feel that the UK has turned its back on its allies and Iran has benefited from that. What is your view?” Theresa May “No, the UK continues to have good, strong relations with the Gulf and with the Gulf states, but I want to build on those for the future. The Gulf states are our strategic partner - Iran is not. It’s important that we build on the relationships we have with the Gulf states. I think that is - can be done in a number of areas. Yes, on security, but also on the prosperity agenda, on looking at the trade relationships that we can build on. We already see significant exports from the UK into the Gulf states, and significant investment from the Gulf states in the UK. I want to take that further.”
Turki Al-Dakhil “But do you have this feeling while you are sitting with the leaders in the GCC?”
Theresa May “I feel a very positive approach from the leaders in the GCC, and a recognition that the UK and the Gulf states have done much together in the past. But this isn’t just about resting on our past relationship - it’s about saying: ‘How can we work together for the future? How can we work together to ensure the security and prosperity both of the Gulf, but also the UK?’”
Turki Al-Dakhil “Let’s change, if you don’t mind, to other subject - let’s go to Europe. How do you see Britain in the world after Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May?”
Theresa May “Well, once we leave the European Union, I want to see Britain…”
Turki Al-Dakhil “Well, when that will happen?”
Theresa May “Well, it will - well, there is some process to go through first. We have to formally trigger the formal negotiations. I expect to trigger the negotiations by the end of March next year, and then there is a process which can be up to two years, as set forward in the relevant European treaty, for those negotiations to take place. When we leave the European Union, the UK will be free to negotiate, to have set up trade arrangements around the world. “But I want to see the UK, having taken this decision to leave the European Union, as a confident, positive, outward-looking country. I want us to be a global leader in free trade, I think it’s very important for us to be out there arguing for the benefits, economic benefits, of free trade. I want to see us building on our alliances around the whole world. I also want to see us negotiating the right deal for the UK with the European Union, because we want to continue to have good relations. We’re leaving the EU - we’re not leaving Europe.”
Turki Al-Dakhil “One last question, Prime Minister Theresa May, if I may. Well, my viewers are curious to know who Theresa May is. My question: what is your message to Arab world about yourself?”
Theresa May “I hope that people will see me as a dependable partner, and somebody who we - who can - they can work with to ensure prosperity and security here in the Gulf region, but also in the United Kingdom. And I look forward to the discussions I’m having at the GCC Summit, and also to the individual discussions that I’ll be having with the Gulf states’ leaders to look at the ways in which we can take our relationship forward. I want the Gulf states to see the UK as that dependable partner for the future.”
Turki Al-Dakhil “Thank you. I’ll ask about Arab and Muslim people. They are afraid of a lot of what happened in Europe. Do you share the same concern about UK after Brexit?”
Theresa May “In terms of the United Kingdom, I’ve been giving a very simple message to people, that I want my time as Prime Minister Theresa May, I want my government, to be a government that works for everyone across the United Kingdom. I want the United Kingdom to be a great meritocracy, where people can get on and be the best that they want to be. And where what matters is not where you’ve come from or who your parents were, but actually, your own efforts and your own talents. Working for everyone: that’s the message, that’s what I will be doing in the UK.”
Turki Al-Dakhil “Even after Brexit?” Theresa May “After Brexit, the UK will still be the UK. Life will be different, but we will be that confident, global, outward-looking country. We’ll maintain our good relations with Europe, but I want to ensure that at all times, we have a government and a country that works for everyone.”
Turki Al-Dakhil “In which way do you think life will be different?”
Theresa May “Well, we’ll no longer be a member of the European Union. That means we’ll be able to negotiate free-trade deals with other countries around the world. But I still want to get the right deal for the UK with the European Union, so that we can - and maintain those good relations with the European Union. It’s in the UK’s interest to see a strong EU and to maintain good relations with it.”
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