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The UK and Saudi Arabia: realpolitik or retailpolitik?

As Brexit draws closer, the tension between upholding British values and maintaining British interests can only grow

By Peter Salisbury  

King Salman of Saudi Arabia ©Xinhua/SIPA USA/PA Images

A core tension in foreign policy is the tug-of-war between interests and values—between ideals and realpolitik. For some critics of the current British government, the issue is more one of ideals versus retailpolitik.

Press coverage of Prime Minister Theresa May’s first state visit to Saudi Arabia in early April—her second to the Arabian Peninsula in the past six months—was centered around her decision to not wear a headscarf when meeting with a senior member of the royal family. Far less attention…

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