EXCLUSIVE: British MPs visit Egypt; praise economic reforms

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Tue, 28 Nov 2017 - 03:12 GMT

Members of British Parliament in an interview with Egypt Today, November 26, 2017 - Egypt Today/Mohamed Fawzy

Members of British Parliament in an interview with Egypt Today, November 26, 2017 - Egypt Today/Mohamed Fawzy

CAIRO – 28 November 2017: Egypt Today met with a delegation from the English Parliament and members of the Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association, during their visit to Egypt.

The delegation was asked about Egypt’s internal affairs and how they view the current economic measures. The interview also tackled the issue of ending the travel ban to Sharm El-Sheikh.

The delegation includes Stephen Timms, member of the House of Commons for the Labor Party and President of the Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association; Baroness Gloria Hooper, member of the House of Lords for the Conservative Party and Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords; Jonathan Lord, member of the House of Commons for the Conservative Party; and Lord Richard Andrew Rosser, member of the House of Lords for the Labor Party.

Dalia Youssef, member of the Egyptian Parliament Foreign Relations Committee and MPs Ibrahim Hegazy and Mohammed Zakaria, both members of the Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association attended the interview.

The members of the British Parliament delegation offered their sincerest condolences to the Egyptian people for the martyrs that lost their lives in the terrorist attack on Al-Rawdah Mosque, Be’r Al-Abd, North Sinai. They extended their support to Egypt on its war against terrorism.

The full transcript of the interview is included below.

How do you perceive the economic situation in Egypt after the economic reform program?

Stephen Timms: We first met President Sisi after the election. When we met him, he emphasized that he was keen on raising the Egyptian people’s salaries and income. During his term, he introduced difficult, albeit necessary reforms. Economic progress is expected to be made in the near future.

We also look forward to stronger bilateral relations between Egypt and England, as our country helps Egypt achieve economic prosperity while Egypt continues to implement its reforms and the UK Parliament follows its agenda.

There are three basic aspects of UK support to Egypt: businesspeople, UK contributions in educational reform on the levels of schools and universities, and the revival of Egyptian tourism. We, as members of the UK Parliament, strongly believe that British tourism to Sharm El-Sheikh should resume. The English love the environment and the weather in Egypt. We are working hard to pressure the government to allow the return of British tourism to Sharm El-Sheikh.

Do you want to collaborate with Egypt to contribute to educational reform?

Lord Andrew Rosser: In our Parliament we have talked about how to make such contributions. There are talks with an Egyptian businessman to build an Egyptian university inside the New Administrative Capital, on an area of 350 feddans, in partnership with three major international universities.

Moreover, Egypt’s demographics consist mostly of young people, so it would be necessary to create jobs for them and help them develop the ability to innovate. At the same time, Egypt needs a leap in technology, which would help it become a pioneer in manufacturing textiles, cotton, etc. A fourth technological revolution needs to take place in Egypt, especially because it enjoys a unique geographical location among all continents. In my opinion, this is a good chance for Egypt to achieve economic growth.
Baroness Gloria Hooper: There are huge groups outside the Parliament that are interested in contributing to an educational renaissance in Egypt. The British Council also plays a role in this by providing English language courses and scholarships to students who wish to pursue their education in the UK.

Can members of the Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association lobby in the UK Parliament to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group?

Jonathan Lord: There is no doubt that Egypt is facing many terrorist attacks, and everyone could see that with the latest incident which targeted people praying at Al-Rawdah Mosque in Al-Arish. Similarly, the UK faced a number of terrorist attacks, but they were limited in comparison to Egypt.

Some believe that the Muslim Brotherhood are behind these terrorist attacks. All that is needed is providing evidence and proof that the Muslim Brotherhood is behind these attacks, in order for us to take the legal issue into our hands before British courts and to bring those involved in these terrorist incidents and living in the UK before justice.

Are there plans for further cooperation between the British and the Egyptian Parliaments on countering terrorism and illegal immigration?

Stephen Timms: Indeed, the purpose of this visit is to further cooperation between the Egyptian Parliament and the UK Parliament. Both countries are already cooperating on the levels of intelligence, and so are the British Parliament and the Egyptian government. Our role as the Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association is to improve and strengthen relations between Egypt and Britain. We should take into consideration that there are already existing extensive communications on the levels of intelligence to eradicate terrorism especially since terrorism is a global issue that is not limited to one country.

There are two Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Associations. We are constantly in touch with members of the Egyptian Parliament. In fact, Egyptian MPs have already visited Britain last November and we look forward to another visit. Talks conducted during such visits help us better understand the situation in Egypt, therefore we are better able to consider how Britain can support Egypt.

Lord Andrew Rosser: Terrorism is based on religious extremist ideas from different religious people, be it Muslims, Christians or Jews. All religions preach the need for peace. We suggest implementing late President Anwar el-Sadat’s idea of establishing a Religions Complex in Gabal Moussa, Sinai. This idea needs to be revived. The largest numbers of religions need to be united there and their representatives need to put down commandments for all humankind to follow.

What are the mechanisms to be used and programs to be adopted against terrorism?

Stephen Timms: We do not currently adopt any specific programs, but we are ready to hear Egypt’s ideas and proposals in order to present them in England and see how they could be implemented.

What do you think about the standpoint taken by the Arab Quartet against Qatar?

Jonathan Lord: Any country that supports terrorism must be pressured. Therefore, Arab countries’ pressure on Qatar is favorable.

Why is it that your government has not yet decided to allow tourism to return to Egypt, despite the frequent visits of members of the House of Commons to Cairo?

Lord Andrew Rosser: We have a specific program in this regard. As Labor and Conservative parties, we have used our parliamentary authorities to ask the prime minister to lift the ban on traveling to Sharm El-Sheikh. We then received a response, which said that the ban was implemented for reasons related to the security of the region, and lack of Egyptian and Russian governments’ exploratory report on the Sharm El-Sheikh plane, concluding that we are not ready to allow tourism back to Sharm El-Sheikh now.

Jonathan Lord: We are doing our best to pressure the government to allow tourism back to Sharm El-Sheikh. It is one of the issues we agreed upon as members of the Egyptian-British Parliamentary Friendship Association. The House of Lords, House of Commons and all parties are seeking to pressure the government, because the government is waiting for Russia’s report.

Baroness Gloria Hooper: Once we return to the UK, we will meet with the ministers working on issues related to tourism and hand them a detailed report on the necessity of allowing tourism to return to Egypt.

Stephen Timms: Two months ago, a British airline went bankrupt due to not flying to Sharm El-Sheikh. In addition, banning tourism to Egypt also leads to economic losses in England.

What do you think of President Sisi’s work?

Stephen Timms: There are positive impressions about the economic reforms brought about by President Sisi, in spite of his short term and the many pressures he faced. However, there is notable economic improvement. Sisi is facing certain challenges, like growing inflation. On the military level, he maintains a proactive attitude, for he believes terrorist attacks require military intervention.

Lord Andrew Rosser: We were lucky to meet President Sisi during his visit to the British Parliament more than a year ago. He gave us a positive impression about his efforts to create jobs and improve the Egyptian infrastructure.

Amid all the conflicts in the Arab region and the disintegration of some countries, Egypt is a model. During a short period of time, President Sisi could stabilize the country. We look forward to cooperating with a stable and powerful country like Egypt, especially with its leadership in the region.

I would like to emphasize that Egypt is home to different religions. When President Sisi visited England, he emphasized the importance of nationalism and freedom of religions, and that he was seeking to establish a civil state. He refused to let extremism use religion as a pretext. He also emphasized that freedom of religion is a right to all.

Jonathan Lord: Sisi fulfilled all his promises. He promised a constitution, a parliament and economic reforms and fulfilled all of these promises. He could truly make real progress.

What do you think about the current investment climate in Egypt, and would you like to invest in Egypt?

Lord Andrew Rosser: This is the right time to invest in Egypt. Egyptians have a great chance to attract foreign investments, beginning with cultivation, and until the final product is made, cotton that is. Cultivation, production and exportation should all be done in Egypt.

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