Under considerable public pressure to demonstrate its achievements after leaving the EU, the UK government is trying to gain credibility by liaising with other countries. The UK Foreign Secretary led a delegation to the region as a periodic visit to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. She met with senior officials from the two countries. UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss recently visited Qatar, Saudi Arabia and India on a business trip. The UK Foreign Secretary’s visit to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region has been announced to be for business purposes.
UK Seeks Closer Cooperation with Saudi Arabia
The UK Foreign Secretary’s visit to Saudi Arabia had various economic, political and security purposes. During the visit, UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss met with Saudi Arabia’s FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh. In a statement, the UK Foreign Office described stronger cooperation in regional security, development, human rights, fight against terrorism and ways to strengthen economic ties between the two countries under Riyadh’s plan to diversify its economy. During the meeting, Prince Faisal and Truss “Reviewed the strong and historical Saudi-British relations, and opportunities to strengthen them in all fields,” the foreign ministry said.
UK-Saudi Security Cooperation
Liz Truss began her foreign trip by visiting Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The UK sees these trips as the first step in trade talks with GCC member states. Therefore, the UK Foreign Secretary’s visit to Saudi Arabia is the first instance in expanding cooperation. The UK Foreign Secretary says that she seeks to develop economic and security cooperation with GCC member states during this trip. In Saudi Arabia, she met with Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan to discuss security and regional cooperation, human rights, and counter-terrorism operations.
British-Qatari Exchange of Views on Afghanistan
After the British Foreign Secretary visited Saudi Arabia, she left for Qatar and met with their officials. Meanwhile, the British Foreign Office said that the focus of the Truss meeting with the Emir and Foreign Minister of Qatar was cooperation between the two countries on the situation in Afghanistan and regional security, along with a visit to the Afghan refugee camp in the country. In Qatar, she met with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman to discuss Afghanistan’s security. She said Qatar had played a critical role in securing safe passage for those seeking to leave Afghanistan, including over 100 British nationals, since the UK’s evacuation operation ended in late August.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar Are Strategic UK Partners
Liz Truss called Qatar and Saudi Arabia two critical partners in trade, technology, security and defence relations. She said that closer security and economic ties with our allies in the Persian Gulf would create jobs and opportunities for people in the UK. The Emir of Qatar and the UK Foreign Secretary met to discuss bilateral relations, development horizons, and regional and international developments, especially the situation in Afghanistan. At the same time, some media outlets, citing diplomatic sources, said the start of a strategic dialogue with Qatar for security, development, trade and investment are other main topics of Truss’s visit to Qatar. Therefore, the purpose of the visit by the UK Foreign Secretary to Saudi Arabia and then Qatar and India has been to strengthen relations as much as possible.
UK Seeks to Develop Economic Relations Post-Brexit
The UK Foreign Secretary’s visit to Saudi Arabia at this time has a special message. The visit comes as the UK government plans to sign a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to develop economic relations in the post-Brexit period. The UK has close trade and military relations with the countries of the Persian Gulf.
Human Rights Groups Criticise the UK
Of course, the UK Foreign Secretary’s visit to Saudi Arabia has drawn a wave of criticism. Some lawmakers and human rights groups have accused the Johnson government of making lucrative arm deals with Saudi Arabia that have caused disaster in the war against Yemen and human rights abuses. The UK has authorised the sale of about 6.8 billion pounds ($9.3bn) of weapons to Saudi Arabia since the start of the war with Yemen, which has left tens of thousands injured and devastated, in addition to a high number of deaths.
The UK Seeks to Expand Relations with Developing Countries
The British Foreign Secretary also visited India and discussed various issues with Indian officials. The UK government says it intends to expand its economic and security ties with fast-growing countries. The UK Foreign Secretary says closer ties with like-minded democracies such as India are critical to this ambition.
India-UK Roadmap for Strengthening Bilateral Relations
In May of this year, the Prime Minister of India, Modi, agreed with Boris Johnson on a roadmap to strengthen relations between the two countries. The UK has said it will invest £11.5 million in clean energy projects in India, which is a minimal amount in the Indian economy. Other figures announced by the British Foreign Office, including $70 million (£50.4 million) for green technologies and £500,000 for a research project on a new virtual network between the two countries to investigate the issue of carbon sequestration, are all tiny figures.
Job Creation and Economic Development at the Forefront of British Programmes
Liz Truss expressed hope that the India-UK cooperation on sensitive technologies, investment and defence issues would lead to closer ties and, in turn, help create jobs and economic development in both countries. The UK and India both claim to have a say in new technologies. The UK considers itself the third owner of the “Unicorns” of the world of technology. Unicorns are startups that have more than one billion invested in capital.
Diminished Global Prestige for Britain After Leaving the EU
The UK does not seem to have much to offer India in terms of technology or even investment. The Indians are probably looking for more prestige from these meetings. The UK has struggled to show viable achievements since leaving the EU. The country is trying to establish a clear, global image with such trips. Otherwise, signing one or two memoranda of understanding on the development and transfer of technology at these small sums would not have required a two-day visit by the foreign secretary.
The UK counts on Qatar and Saudi Arabia as two essential partners for the development of economic relations. Following its withdrawal from the EU, the UK is seeking a free trade agreement with the GCC, which will increase current trade with the region. In all her meetings, the UK Foreign Secretary has placed particular emphasis on “Security cooperation” and economic cooperation. Confusion in UK foreign policy is evident after the country’s exit from the EU, and Boris Johnson’s government is working to restore UK’s lost credibility on a global level.