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Middle East

04 Apr 2017

Theresa May visits Gulf, talks against Cadbury egg hunt

Theresa May seems to be making the headlines these days very easily. Even when she is on an important trip to the countries of the Persian Gulf to discuss relationships and cooperation with the United Kingdom, her making a minor comment on the National Trust’s Easter egg hunt caught all the attention.

The prime minister joined the Church of England in commenting against the National Trust and Cadbury for omitting to use the word “Easter” from the title of their annual egg hunt. A spokesman for the Church said that “the marketing campaign highlights the folly in airbrushing faith from Easter.” May commented that she was furious both as a vicar’s daughter and as a member of the National Trust. “I think the stance they have taken is absolutely ridiculous. I don’t know what they are thinking about frankly,” the prime minister said on ITV. A National Trust spokesman described the suggestion that the Trust is downplaying the significance of Easter, as nonsense.

May’s comments on this superficial matter sparked controversy, with readers and Twitter users accusing her of trying to distract citizens from the serious problems that her government is facing. During the weekend, Michael Howard, a former Conservative leader, said in an interview that he expects the prime minister to protect Gibraltar, just like Margaret Thatcher did for the Falklands thirty-five years ago. She is facing also the will of Nicola Sturgeon for a second Scottish Independence referendum and a pack of Brexit negotiation guidelines, presented by the European Union, that doesn’t seem to match her plans.

Apart from her comments on protecting the faith and the Cadbury tradition, Theresa May visited Jordan yesterday, in the first leg of her trip to the Gulf. She met King Abdullah and the prime minister, Hani Al-Mulki, in the capital Amman. Together with the king, they toured military compounds re-affirming the strong military ties between their nations. May and king Abdullah agreed on new UK support for the Royal Jordanian Airforce in the its fight against ISIS. Downing Street announced a £1bn aid package to boost job development and education for Syrian refugees that live in Jordanian camps.

The most criticized part of May’s trip to the Gulf is that of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia leads a coalition of eleven countries of the Arab world against Yemen to restore to power the ousted president Mansur Hadi. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party leader, said that “the prime minister should put human rights and international law at the centre of her talks with Saudi Arabia’s government today. Numerous human rights organisations have documented the dictatorial Saudi monarchy’s shocking human rights record.” Corbyn added that “the Saudi-led coalition bombing in Yemen, backed by our government, has left thousands of dead, twenty-one million people in need of humanitarian aid and three million refugees uprooted from their homes. Unless the prime minister challenges the Saudi regime over its abuses, it will be clear that she is ready to sacrifice the human rights and security on the altar of the arms trade.”

Theresa May talking on BBC cleared out that she sees Saudi Arabia as a traditional ally of the UK. “The UK has a long term and historic relationship with Saudi Arabia and Jordan. We are a significant donor of humanitarian aid. These countries are important for us in terms of security, in terms of defense and, yes, in terms of trade. Gulf security is our security, Gulf prosperity is our prosperity. “

The prime minister, demonstrating the kind of attitude she will follow in her next trips around the globe, continued by saying: “Everything we do is in our British national interest. It is important to engage, to talk to people. We are interested in maintaining good relationships around the world so we can trade and bring jobs and prosperity to the UK.”