As Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud prepares to make his first official visit to Britain on Wednesday, he is enthusiastic about the wide-ranging impact that Vision 2030, his programme to restructure the country’s economy, will have on his country’s future direction.
In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph, the 32-year-old crown prince said he hoped British businesses would be able to benefit from the profound changes taking place in his country after the Brexit negotiations have been completed.
“We believe that Saudi Arabia needs to be part of the global economy,” he explained. “People need to be able to move freely, and we need to apply the same standards as the rest of the world.
“After Brexit there will be huge opportunities for Britain as a result of Vision 2030.”
Crown Prince Mohammed was speaking at his residence in the suburb of Irqah, west of Riyadh.
He stressed the special bond that exists between Britain and the Kingdom, one that goes back more than 100 years to the time that Captain William Shakespear, a British explorer, helped to map the uncharted areas of Arabia that form part of the Saudi kingdom.
“The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Britain is historic and goes back to the foundation of the kingdom,” he said. “We have a common interest that goes back to the earliest days of the relationship. Our relationship with Britain today is super.”
During the crown prince’s three-day visit to Britain, he will meet with Theresa May and other senior ministers, as well as meeting members of the Royal Family.
The crown prince, who was appointed last June to his new position by his father, King Salman, has the task of driving through a wide-ranging package of reforms designed to address the needs and aspirations of Saudi’s predominantly young population.
Crown Prince Mohammed has already implemented a number of reforms aimed at making the country more socially liberal and gradually easing restrictions on women’s rights.
Apart from being allowed to drive from June, women will now be allowed to run their own businesses and attend football matches, while young couples will be allowed to enjoy simple pleasures such as going to the cinema together.
“People in Saudi Arabia have changed a lot because they travel to countries like Britain and see a different way of life,” he explained.
Another important dimension to Crown Prince Mohammed’s visit will relate to co-operation on defence and intelligence issues, one of the mainstays of the UK-Saudi relationship.
The crown prince is due to have private meetings with the heads of MI5 and MI6, as well as being invited to attend a meeting of the National Security Council - a rare privilege for a visiting foreign dignitary.
“The British and Saudi people, along with the rest of the world, will be much safer if you have a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia,” he said. Crown Prince Mohammed believes that, by promoting a more moderate Islamic outlook in his own country, Saudi Arabia can play a prominent role in defeating Islamist-inspired extremism.
“The extremists and the terrorists are linked through spreading their agenda,” he said. “We need to work together to promote moderate Islam.”
He also believes economic growth in Saudi Arabia will benefit the rest of the region, thereby helping to defeat extremism.
“We want to fight terrorism, and we want to fight extremism because we need to build stability in the Middle East,” he said. “We want economic growth that will help the region to develop. “Because of our dominant position, Saudi Arabia is the key to the economic success of the region.”