UK can expect a 'stronger' relationship with Saudi Arabia after Brexit

5 March 2018, 20:45

Britain can expect an even stronger relationship with Saudi Arabia after Brexit, the country's foreign minister has told Sky News.

Adel al Jubeir was speaking on the eve of a historic visit by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

"We're bullish about Britain" he told Sky News.

Britain already has a close relationship with the fabulously wealthy oil rich desert kingdom, but the upbeat assessment will be welcome news to Prime Minister Theresa May looking for new opportunities after Britain breaks with Europe.

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Asked whether Britain can rely on Saudi Arabia after Brexit, Mr al Jubeir was unequivocal.

"Without a doubt. Our countries have been allies for many, many years. Our countries have relied on each other in many areas and I don't expect this to change," he said.

Once Britain has left the European Union, he said the alliance will only strengthen.

"I expect this to increase and to become even stronger."

Mohammad bin Salman, the heir to the Saudi throne, and the power behind it, will meet Mrs May in Downing Street on Wednesday during his his first official visit to the UK.

He is also expected to meet members of the Royal Family.

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The Crown Prince is heading here with a large delegation, hoping to forge stronger links in trade, business, education and entertainment, say Saudi officials

They say the package of initiatives they hope to agree with Britain will add up to many billions of pounds.

In return, Mr bin Salman wants support for his programme of sweeping social and economic reforms.

But the visit will not be without criticism and protest.

Saudi military intervention in Yemen has caused the deaths of thousands of civilians. Other critics highlight the country's poor human rights record.

Foreign minister Mr Jubeir, however, is dismissive of likely protests.

"I think many of these protests are what I would call 'rent-a-crowd'. People pay people and they come and show up. I would expect that there should be positive protests given the relationship between our two countries."

Questioning the authenticity of planned protests will in itself likely cause even more controversy.