£5billion jet deal shot down over Saudi Arabia murder


£5billion jet deal shot down over Saudi Arabia murder: Blow for British jobs as the Germans block sale of parts in Jamal Khashoggi row

  • It is a huge blow for the UK’s biggest defence company, BAE Systems
  • The deal was expected to help save thousands of jobs in the north of England
  • Germany, which sells parts for the jets, imposed arms sale ban after the murder

A blockbuster £5billion deal for Britain to sell 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia has been shelved following the fallout over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

It is a huge blow for the UK’s biggest defence company, BAE Systems, as the deal was expected to help save thousands of jobs in the north of England.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signed a celebrated ‘memorandum of intent’ over the agreement in March 2018.

A blockbuster £5billion deal for Britain to sell 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia has been shelved following the fallout over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (pictured)

A blockbuster £5billion deal for Britain to sell 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Saudi Arabia has been shelved following the fallout over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi (pictured)

But the deal has been kicked into the long grass after Germany, which sells crucial parts for the jets, imposed an arms sale ban following Mr Khashoggi’s murder.

The pact is expected to be raised next week when the Saudi foreign minister flies in for talks with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

A Saudi source said: ‘Obviously we want this to move forward and we share the same opinion as the UK in that this German decision should not affect a bilateral arms agreement.’

The deal has been kicked into the long grass after Germany, which sells crucial parts for the jets, imposed an arms sale ban following Mr Khashoggi's murder

The deal has been kicked into the long grass after Germany, which sells crucial parts for the jets, imposed an arms sale ban following Mr Khashoggi’s murder

They confirmed the purchase would now not go ahead unless Germany lifted the ban.

The British aerospace and defence company generated 14 per cent of its 2018 group sales in Saudi Arabia – highlighting how any political moves are high-stakes decisions.

The pact is expected to be raised next week when the Saudi foreign minister flies in for talks with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured)

The pact is expected to be raised next week when the Saudi foreign minister flies in for talks with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (pictured)

Intense lobbying has been underway for months by UK officials. The kingdom bought 72 jets from BAE in 2007 in a £4.4billion deal. The Crown Prince then signed preliminary agreements for 48 more.

It was hoped the deal would secure thousands of jobs, including at the company’s Warton and Samlesbury plants in Lancashire. But in October 2018, Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi royal family, was brutally killed at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, leading to worldwide condemnation.

The CIA alleged the Crown Prince had ordered Khashoggi’s assassination, which he denies. This week it was also claimed he had hacked the phone of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. As it stands, Berlin will not sanction new deals until March 31 at the earliest.

BAE builds the jet as a member of a pan-European consortium including Airbus.

Former armed forces minister Mark Francois said: ‘Losing this contract could threaten hundreds if not thousands of British jobs. There is an increasing concern about Germany’s reliability as an industrial partner on military equipment.’

A spokesman for BAE said: ‘We continue to work closely with industry partners and the UK Government to continue to fulfil our contractual support arrangements in KSA on the key European collaboration programmes.’

Theresa May, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Boris Johnson pictured together in London in 2018

Theresa May, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Boris Johnson pictured together in London in 2018

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (right) enters the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in October 2018

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi (right) enters the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in October 2018

A Government spokesman said: ‘The UK Government continues to support ongoing discussion… It would be inappropriate to comment further on commercial negotiations.’

  • UK spies were urged to keep a close eye on Mr Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz during a visit to London months after his murder after fears she could be targeted. US Intelligence agencies allegedly told them they thought Saudi Arabia had a plan to keep her under surveillance in the UK.

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