Prime Minister David Cameron has defended his decision to fly to the Persian Gulf to promote British defence exports to countries that have been criticised over human rights.
Mr Cameron said he made “no apology” for helping Britain’s defence industry do deals abroad. His comment was to be delivered in a high-profile speech at the Guildhall in the City of London last night, where he was to unveil plans to boost UK exports to growing economic markets around the globe.
The annual speech is traditionally the Prime Minister’s highest-profile foreign affairs address of the year. But rather than talk about the crises in Syria or Iran or the row over the EU budget, Mr Cameron was expected to spell out his argument that the government should use its clout abroad to help British companies win the “global race” for jobs and business.
Mr Cameron came under fire last week for his three-day tour of the Gulf, in which he hoped to help sell 100 Typhoon jets – worth a total of £6 billion to the UK – to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman.
He was to say: “We must support all sectors of the economy where we have a comparative advantage – and that includes defence. I understand why some people are a bit squeamish about me flying off round the world to help our defence industry do deals abroad.
“But let me say this. Britain has the most rigorous arms export licensing regime in the whole world.
“Every country in the world has a right to self-defence. And you cannot expect every country to be self-sufficient in providing the tanks, ships and planes needed.
“It’s right that we should be at the forefront of this market, and that’s why last week, in the Gulf, I was pushing for new contracts worth billions of pounds and thousands of jobs.
“That’s vital new business for Britain. And I make no apology for trying to help win it.”