PM visit ‘could yield jet deals’

Visit: David Cameron
Visit: David Cameron
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A new link between Britain and the United Arab Emirates could protect jobs at a pair of Lancashire jet-building factories.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister David Cameron announced a defence alliance with the Middle East Kingdom which he said would see the countries collaborate on “a number of new technologies.”

It is expected the agreement will give a boost to BAE Systems’ hopes of landing a deal to sell 60 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to the kingdom’s air force.

Under any deal, it is expected parts for the jets would be built at BAE’s factory at Samlesbury, near Preston, with final assembly done at its neighbouring Warton site.

A BAE spokesman said: “BAE Systems is committed to contributing to a closer defence industrial partnership between the UK and the UAE and, therefore, welcomes the recent comments by the two Governments regarding industrial partnerships and defence co-operation.”

It confirmed it had made an offer to the UAE’s air force for Typhoon after it dropped plans to buy the French-built Rafale jet.

The spokesman added: “A detailed assessment of the proposal is now taking place and we look forward to discussing the proposal in detail with the UAE.”

In a joint statement, the two countries said that they would “work together to deepen our defence ties” for the “security of the UAE and wider Gulf region”.

They agreed to “establish an industrial defence partnership that involves close collaboration around Typhoon and a number of new technologies,” it added.

Fylde MP Mark Menzies, whose constituency includes the Warton plant, said he expected Mr Cameron’s visit to the region to push Typhoon’s ambitions to sell jets to Saudi Arabia and Oman.

He arrived in Saudi Arabia last night where he is expected to discuss a potential “substantial order” - believed to be around 100 aircraft - which comes on top of 72 aircraft it has already bought.

Mr Menzies said: “This is about retaining jobs and skills in Lancashire and exports are the way we are going do to that.

“The Prime Minister is doing his bit for the workforce of this county.”

The BAE spokesman also confirmed it had submitted a response to the “request for proposals” put to the four-nation Typhoon jet-building consortium by Oman in April.

He added: “An evaluation of our response has taken place and we are now in discussions with Royal Air Force of Oman to determine how Typhoon can best meet their requirements.”