Deputy Prime Minister speech at GREAT FUTURES event

The opening address from the Deputy Prime Minister at the UK-Saudi Arabia GREAT FUTURES event in Riyadh

 The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP

I’m delighted to be here for GREAT FUTURES. Back in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and back with my good friend His Excellency Minister Al-Qasabi.

We co-lead economic and social elements of our relationship. A vehicle for action, delivery and change.

Our collaboration across the breadth of the relationship is remarkable, exponentially increasing our mutual prosperity and demonstrating that our modern, forward-looking partnership can meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

Every time His Excellency and I come together we strengthen our two kingdoms’ historic relationship.

This time I have brought a few friends along with me.

A delegation of more than 450. The largest UK trade mission in a decade and the largest ever from the UK to The Kingdom. With 70% here for the first time. 

GREAT FUTURES kicks off a year-long programme showcasing the UK’s best and brightest in the world’s most exciting markets.

When I was asked where it should take place in 2024, I answered immediately: Riyadh.

The pace of change in Saudi Arabia - economic, social, cultural - is extraordinary.

As I said to His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince, when I had the privilege to meet him last October, Britain doesn’t just endorse his Vision 2030 – we want to be a part of it.

Our talented lawyers, consultants, financiers, architects and designers are the ones who can help make that vision a reality. Indeed they’re already doing so.

And we want to take that to the next level with GREAT FUTURES. Turbocharging British businesses’ presence in the Kingdom and accelerating the vital business links that make our relationship so valuable.

Technology will have a profound effect on the world as we know it and through its giga-projects and megacities, Saudi Arabia is paving the way on how societies can harness innovative technologies to achieve incredible change.

Crucially, this partnership is a two-way street.

We’re opening up our markets to one another, so that investment, exports, tourism and collaboration flows in both directions.

From the new London Metal Exchange in Jeddah, to the 3 billion dollars of investment in the North East of England.

From Strathclyde University in Riyadh….

To ten British Independent schools across the Kingdom by 2030.

Behind the scenes too, more connections are forming every day.

From the Education Taskforce, led by Sir Steve Smith and Minister Al-Benyan.

To the investment Memorandum of Understanding - signed today.

But for me, as a former Culture Secretary, one of the most exciting areas of collaboration is the cultural exchange.

I was honoured to show Minister Al-Qasabi around the British Museum earlier this year and I can’t wait to see the magnificence of Al-Ula tomorrow.

In Britain we can sometimes take our culture for granted. We inherit a history that has long been preserved and showcased.

But Saudi Arabia is having the incredible experience of showing many of its wonders to the world for the first time.

And I am hugely excited about the potential for UK expertise to play a part in that.

It’s why I am so keen that the work we do here over the next 2 days catalyses enduring relationships that last for a generation.

And so I will be establishing taskforces across the sectors represented here to take our work forward over the coming year.

The UK-Saudi relationship is the closest it’s ever been. Something of a giga-project in its own right. It’s getting bigger by the day.

With every visit taken.

With every agreement signed.

With every online visa issued. 

With every connection made.

And with every ambition – from trade to tourism, culture to telecoms, e-sports to energy – fulfilled.

We’re two kingdoms, united in partnership, creating great futures together.

From: Cabinet Office and The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP