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  1. ITV Report

Theresa May's dilemma on Brexit trade mission to Saudi Arabia

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Emily Morgan

Theresa May has found herself on the horns of a real diplomatic and post-Brexit dilemma during her visit to Saudi Arabia.

A good trading relationship is all the more important for Britain now it is heading out of the European Union - which is why the Prime Minister chose to come to the Middle East just five days after triggering Article 50.

Stepping off the plane in Saudi Arabia she said she wanted to extend the UK's trade links with Riyadh.

But then there is the problem of the country's human rights record and its leading role in bombing rebel targets in Yemen.

On Tuesday Mrs May insisted, however, that she had no problem raising hard issues with the Saudis - or anyone else.

Theresa May has defended her ties with Saudi Arabia. Credit: ITV News

In recent weeks the Prime Minister has faced widespread criticism over Britain's arms deals with the Arab state.

There have also been repeated calls to suspend the sales of weapons amid claims of human rights abuses in Yemen under the Saudi-led coalition bombing campaign.

But Mrs May stressed how important UK-Saudi business dealings were for the "safety and prosperity" of the country.

"We raise human rights concerns with those that we engage with. We don't stand on the sidelines," she told ITV News on Tuesday.

"We actually raise these issues. We're able to do that because we're co-operating, because we're working with people across a number of fronts."

Saudi Arabia has been accused of war crimes in Yemen. Credit: ITV News

Mrs May also insisted the UK gives millions in aid to help those suffering in Yemen - and would press the Saudis on the issue.

But with Britain's withdrawal from the EU just beginning, it is more important than ever to forge and maintain trading relationships around the world.

The licensed arms sales though, worth more than £3 billion pounds since the Yemen conflict began, will only serve to create more controversy as the war drags on.

As the months pass by, the UK may have to get used to seeing Mrs May sitting down with the Saudis.

She needs to build new partners around the world post-Brexit, and not all of those will be ones Britain finds agreeable.