British MPs discuss Saudi-UK ties, Vision 2030

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London — In light of the visit of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, 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.

Hollobone said that the royal visit “will help cement those relations closer than ever.”

The MP also said that he hopes that the 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 “favorable 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.”

The MPs were impressed with the “tremendous” reform the country is undergoing.

Hollobone said: “Vision 2030 is an inspiring 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.”

In Hollonbone’s opinion: “The strongest part of the relationship is the security cooperation. 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.

Docherty said: “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.”

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.

Speaking to the youth of Saudi Arabia, Hollobone said: “My message to the youth 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.”

Docherty 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 ingenuity and effort to achieve potential in the work place.”

According to Hollobone, Saudi Arabia played a role in stopping terrorist attacks in the UK.

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. Defense, 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 said: “I think there is a lots of discussion between her majesty’s government here in the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia about defense 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 10 years’ time than it is at the moment because of Brexit. We need to strike trade deals with key upcoming countries such as Saudi Arabia and especially given the trade we have in defense at the moment. I hope we can build on that relationship a free trade relationship in the future.” — Al Arabiya English


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