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January 25, 2017 1:49 pm

UK Cabinet Minister: Maintaining Close Trade Ties With Israel ‘Absolutely Fundamental’ as Britain Prepares for EU Departure

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British International Development Secretary Priti Patel, who ordered the freeze in UK funding of the Palestinian Authority. Photo: Policy Exchange via Wikimedia Commons.

British International Development Secretary Priti Patel. Photo: Policy Exchange via Wikimedia Commons.

As the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union following last June’s “Brexit” vote, maintaining close trade ties with Israel is “absolutely fundamental,” a British cabinet minister said on Tuesday, according to a Jewish Chronicle report.

Priti Patel — the UK’s secretary of state for international development — made the comment at a Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) event at the Palace of Westminster in London.

“When it comes to great friendships and when it comes to looking at the great trading relationship we already have — that trading relationship can only go from strength to strength,” Patel was quoted as saying. “Don’t tell me there isn’t more we can do; there’s a lot more we can do. We can do that because of the amazing relationship of our two countries.”

Last year, as reported by The Algemeiner, Patel ordered a freeze in millions of pounds’ worth of aid, pending an investigation into how it is used by the Palestinian Authority. In a reference to that move, Patel said on Tuesday, “My department has an important role to play when it comes to Israel — and it will play its part by investing in the right things, for the right people — but also in initiatives which can bring people together. These will include co-existence programs. But I am also rooting out abuse in the system to ensure that that money is spent in the right way. I will be assiduous in ensuring that we follow the money to our transparency — and follow the outcome as well, because that is what we should be doing with British taxpayers’ money.”

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At Tuesday’s CFI event, Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev also mentioned the issue, saying, “A lot of money has been claimed as going to help needy people — and money hasn’t necessarily always gone to needy people. On the contrary: We’ve had in the past examples of money that’s supposed to go to needy people that’s ended up going to other things, whether to support a maximalist extreme political agenda, to support hate speech or terrorism. I want to commend the secretary of state, who under her watch has instituted new guidelines which will ensure that money which is supposed to help needy people really reaches needy people.”

In her remarks on Tuesday, Patel, according to a Jewish News report, called out the opposition Labour Party for its “failure to get a grip” on antisemitism within its ranks.

In December, British Minister of State for Trade Policy Mark Price said the UK was looking to bolster its economic ties with the Jewish state.

“Israel is an important trading partner for the UK and we are committed to further strengthening our important trade relationship,” Price said.

In recent years, bilateral trade between Britain and Israel has topped £3 billion annually.

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