Sunak personally intervenes as Germany risks scuppering multi-billion deal

The British Prime Minister has reportedly personally urged German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to approve the sale of Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia.

This request would be time-sensitive, with Rishi Sunak asking Germany to give the go-ahead to the deal before the planned visit to the UK of the Middle Eastern country’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, takes place.

The official trip is expected to happen later this year, and was announced by the country’s embassy of the Saudi prince in August.

The Prime Minister’s alleged intervention would have been prompted by fears shared by defence sources Berlin could kill the deal agreed in March 2018 to sell 48 jets to Saudi Arabia – an order amounting to 12 per cent of BAE revenues, the Telegraph wrote.

A source told the publication: “If any of the nations that designed and produced that aircraft aren’t prepared to sell to Saudi that will scupper any deal.”

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While Typhoon jets are designed, manufactured and maintained by BAE Systems in Lancashire, their export is subjected to the approval of not just the UK but also Germany, Spain and Italy.

This is because these aircraft were developed in the 1980s by a number of companies from these four nations under NATO’s watch.

Concerns over the outcome of the deal come as Germany banned the export of weapons to Saudi Arabia in the wake of the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Crown Prince.

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While the German Chancellor is understood to be prone to green-lighting the export, members of his government coalition are believed to be opposing the approval of the deal in light of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

The deal would be beneficial not just to BAE but also to other defence companies in the UK and abroad.

Mr Sunak held a conversation over the phone with Mr Bin Salman in mid-August, after which the Saudi embassy shared that a visit to the UK would take place.

During their discussion, the pair focused on strengthening their nation’s cooperation on security and defence, Downing Street said.

A UK Government spokesman said: “When considering any potential export of Eurofighter, we work closely with the governments of Germany, Italy and Spain, in line with the commitments each nation has made to support the others’ exports.

“Last year, we welcomed Germany’s decision to extend export licences for parts for Saudi Arabia’s existing Eurofighter aircraft for three years. The UK remains steadfast in its commitment to our strategic defence relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

A German government spokesman said: “As a matter of principle the federal government does not comment on matters of internal coordination.”

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