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UK urges Germany to approve fighter jet delivery to Saudi Arabia, threatens to cut it out of program

September 27, 2023 at 7:36 pm

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak departs 10 Downing Street in London, United Kingdom on September 13, 2023 [Raşid Necati Aslım/Anadolu Agency]

British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has urged Germany to approve the delivery of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, in an apparent bid to save the United Kingdom’s economy from further detriment.

According to a report by the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, citing anonymous British officials, Prime Minister Sunak and his government have been privately urging German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz to lift his country’s veto on the delivery of Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia, after Scholz announced back in July that Berlin would not approve the delivery in the near future.

Saudi Arabia, which has already managed to acquire 72 of the aircraft, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UK five years ago to acquire a further 48 of them, in a sale reportedly worth over £5 billion ($6.1 billion).

Although that deal stalled as a result of the UK and Germany’s suspension of arms exports to the Kingdom due to its military intervention in Yemen, considerations over the sale were revived in July following the United Nations-brokered ceasefire in the conflict and the significant acceleration of talks between Riyadh and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

READ: UK paid $74m in alleged bribes to Saudi to secure lucrative arms deal

The Eurofighter Typhoon jet has been in development since the mid-1980s, with involvement from a consortium of defence companies including the UK’s BAE Systems and others in Germany, Italy and Spain, under NATO support. The German participation, therefore, gives Berlin the ability to veto any future sales of the jet, a power which it has now used against the delivery to Riyadh at the great dismay of London.

Part of the assertive lobbying of Berlin by London reportedly included threats to the German government that it would be removed from the program through the use of a long-established legal clause.

The deal is reportedly worth a great deal to Britain, its economy and its defence industry, particularly in regards to the retaining of thousands of jobs at BAE Systems’ factories in the north of England.

According to a report published by the defence company last year, the Typhoon jet program contributes around £1.4 billion ($1.7 billion) a year to the British economy, with around 5,000 jobs at BAE factories and an additional 15,000 around the UK depending on it, making it a strategically vital interest.

READ: UK Court considers legality of resuming arms sales to Saudi Arabia