'Saudi oil will boost living standards': Rees-Mogg defends PM's controversial visit

15 March 2022, 18:40 | Updated: 15 March 2022, 19:34

Jacob Rees-Mogg has defended the Prime Minister's decision to visit Saudi Arabia
Jacob Rees-Mogg has defended the Prime Minister's decision to visit Saudi Arabia. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Megan Hinton

Jacob Rees-Mogg has defended the Prime Minister's decision to visit Saudi Arabia, stressing the UK needs to move away from Russian oil and gas.

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Speaking on Tonight with Andrew Marr, the Minister of State for Brexit Opportunities said the controversial trip will have an effect on living standards in the UK as oil companies warn the price of fuel is creeping up to £3 per litre

Jacob Rees-Mogg told Andrew Marr: "Saudi Arabia sits on very large reserves that will have an effect through the oil price on the living standards of people not just in this country but globally."

The trip comes just days after Saudi Arabia executed 81 people and with Saudi Arabia still the subject of international outrage following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

But the MP pointed out that the UK has working relationships with countries across the globe who impose the death penalty including the US and China but said the UK Government is against the form of punishment.

Adding: "We have to deal with the world the way it is, not the way we would like it to be."

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Rees-Mogg defends PM's trip to Saudi Arabia

Speaking to Parliament's Treasury Committee yesterday, Dr Amrita Sen, director of research at Energy Aspects, warned petrol prices could rise to around £2.40 a litre and diesel prices of '£2.50 - even closer to £3' were 'definitely in the realms of possibility'.

Figures from data firm Experian Catalist show the average cost of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts on Monday was 163.7p.

This takes the cost of filling a typical 55-litre family car with petrol above £90 for the first time.

With the average cost of a litre of diesel on Monday was a record 173.7p as oil prices surged after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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But Boris Johnson has defended his controversial visit to Saudi Arabia by stressing the need for countries to move away from Russian oil and gas.

The Prime Minister is due to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday in the hope the Gulf state can increase its production of fuel supplies to make up for reduced reliance on Vladimir Putin's country.

Mr Johnson insisted he had to build a coalition of countries to help the West reduce its dependence on Mr Putin, likening the Russian leader to a drug dealer who had got the West hooked on his hydrocarbons.

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The Prime Minister said: "I think that we've got a global crisis in which its obvious that the Russian aggression in Ukraine has helped to trigger a spike in the price of hydrocarbons, a spike in the price of oil.

"It's vital - if we are going to stand up to (Vladimir) Putin's bullying, if we are going to avoid being blackmailed by Putin in the way that so many western countries sadly have been, we have got to get ourselves off Russian hydrocarbons."

That meant "we need to talk to other producers around the world about how we can move away form that dependency".

Pressed on whether the shift away from Russia meant dealing with other unpleasant regimes, Mr Johnson said: "We want to build the widest possible coalition to ensure that we focus on what is happening in Ukraine, the effect that is having on the price of oil and gas."

He said the West had to "learn our lesson" by breaking away from its links to Russia.

"Listen to what all the other European countries are now saying.

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"Three weeks ago, they wouldn't have said that was possible. A month ago before the invasion, everybody was saying, 'Oh, no, we'll get we'll never be able to do it'.

"Now, after what Putin has done in Ukraine, you're seeing European colleagues step up to the plate and say 'Right, this is the time we got to learn our lesson as the West, we've got to end that dependency on Russian hydrocarbons'.

"And that's one of the reasons I'm going out to the Gulf." Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly said that due to the need to move from Russia, the Prime Minister had to hold the talks this week, despite concerns over human rights abuses and the use of the death penalty.

"The UK's position on the death penalty is long-standing and principled - we oppose the death penalty on principle, we have communicated that to Saudi Arabia," he told Times Radio.

Mr Cleverly said the UK is also urging China to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions.

US officials believed China has signalled to Russia that it would be willing to provide military support for the campaign in Ukraine and financial backing to help stave off the impact of severe sanctions imposed by the West.

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Mr Cleverly told Sky News: "What we're saying to all countries is that they should denounce this unprovoked illegal attack into Ukraine by Russia.

"They should not in any way be supporting Russia, and we urge countries to join the UK and the international community in condemning and sanctioning Russia to choke off the finances which are funding Putin's war effort.

"There is no justification at all for this attack, and we urge China and all countries around the world to denounce it and absolutely not to support it."

Mr Cleverly said the UK has not had any statements from China denouncing the invasion. Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy said that if China wants to be a "global player", it "needs to play its part in making the world safer".

"It needs to stand up to Russian aggression," she told Sky News.