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Mon 3 Apr 2017 08:47 AM

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UK's May visits Saudi Arabia to promote trade and security

Visit is the prime minister’s first overseas trip since giving official notification the UK will leave the EU

UK's May visits Saudi Arabia to promote trade and security
British Prime Minister Theresa May. (BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

UK Prime Minister Theresa May begins a visit to Jordan and Saudi Arabia on Monday, with the goal of building security and commercial ties.

May will travel to Amman on Monday, to discuss additional British support for the Royal Jordanian Air Force in its attacks on Islamic State forces, and then move on to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, where her office said the focus would be on trade.

The visits are the prime minister’s first overseas trips since giving official notification last week that the UK will leave the European Union, casting doubt over Britain’s future trading relations with its biggest market.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond is also travelling this week. He’s visiting India “to bang the drum for British business,” and make the case that London will remain a main finance hub after Brexit.

Saudi Arabia is a major UK customer, importing 6.6 billion pounds ($8.3 billion) of goods and services in 2015. Saudi intelligence services also work closely with their UK counterparts. These ties have led British prime ministers to offer little public criticism of the country’s human rights policies.

“It is clearly in the UK’s security and prosperity interests to support Jordan and Saudi Arabia in tackling regional challenges to create a more stable region, and in delivering their ambitious reform programs to ensure their own stability,” May said in an emailed statement before she left. “And there is so much we can do together on trade, with immense potential for Saudi investment to provide a boost to the British economy.”