Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt Warns UAE Of 'Serious Diplomatic Consequences' Over Academic Jailing

The Foreign Secretary has threatened the UAE with "serious diplomatic consequences".

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt was "shocked and disappointed" by Matthew Hedges' jailing on Wednesday (Picture: PA).

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has threatened the UAE with "serious diplomatic consequences" if a British academic imprisoned in the country is not freed.

Thirty-one-year-old Matthew Hedges jailed in the United Arab Emirates on an allegation of spying, UK relations with the Gulf state are entering a fraught period.

Mr Hedges' wife, Daniela Tejada, has accused the Foreign Office of putting relations with the UAE before her husband's freedom.

The UK has a close relationship with the Gulf state in many areas including military, intelligence and arms sales.

British service personnel train with UAE troops and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson in April celebrated the nation's help fighting the Islamic State terror group.

There are currently around 200 UK personnel deployed to the UAE.

Estimates vary, but the UK has licensed hundreds of millions of pounds in arms sales to the UAE, while the Government says the nation is the Royal Navy's "most visited port globally".

In 2016 Britain exported nearly £10 billion of goods and services to the UAE, a record figure which made it the 13th most significant market for the UK.

In anticipation of Brexit, Britain has worked to forge closer trade links with the UAE, which is home to about 100,000 Britons.

There is also historic co-operation on intelligence among other defence areas, which prompted Tory MP and former Army officer Johnny Mercer to call the jailing "simply unacceptable".

Mr Hunt was "shocked and disappointed" by Mr Hedges' jailing on Wednesday over a charge the minister said he has seen "absolutely no evidence" to support.

The two nations' close ties will give the UK some leverage over the UAE, but Mr Hunt's threats of repercussions will be balanced with concerns of jeopardising relations.

Ms Tejada has accused Britain of "stepping on eggshells instead of taking a firm stance".