Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman is "not really" a reforming leader and the UK should immediately stop selling arms to the country, according to shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry.
The Saudi Crown Prince will arrive in London to meet Theresa May, the Queen and Prince Philip on Wednesday, with protests expected against his visit.
Campaigners have focused their anger on Saudi Arabia’s role in the continuing conflict in Yemen, and the Kingdom’s human rights record.
The Prime Minister has vowed to talk frankly about issues such as the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, but also stressed the importance of the UK-Saudi relationship for both countries’ security.
Mrs May has also spoken of how Saudi Arabia is changing under its new Crown Prince.
Despite this, Ms Thornberry has dismissed the Crown Prince’s reputation as an agent for change in the socially conservative country.
She told Sky News: We’re told that in future women will be able to drive in Saudi Arabia and I’m pleased to hear that.
But let’s not let that eclipse everything else that’s going on.
Remember, this Crown Prince was the one who asked the Prime Minister of Lebanon, for example, to come over for a camping trip.
He was then beaten up, put on live TV and told that he had to resign. That’s not really the actions of a terribly reforming leader, is it?
The number of executions has doubled, there is the Saudi funding of many of the jihadi groups in Syria at the moment.
If we’re going to look at the facts, let’s look at all the facts.
Ms Thornberry urged the Prime Minister to tell the truth to friends in her meeting with the Crown Prince and Saudi officials, adding: Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is an important one but that doesn’t mean that we should be pulling our punches.
The shadow foreign secretary also demanded Mrs May end the sale of British arms to Saudi Arabia while its actions in Yemen are investigated.
It has been revealed the number of open licences for weapons given to Saudi Arabia has increased considerably since Mrs May became Prime Minister, with the Kingdom leading a coalition of nine Arab countries in airstrikes against Yemeni rebels and their allies.
The Government insists it has one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world.
Ms Thornberry added: There needs to be an independent inquiry into how these bombs have been used.
There is great concern there have been breaches of international law because civilians have been targeted.
There have been hundreds and thousands of individuals that have been killed.
We have seen farmland being targeted, hospitals being targeted, we’ve seen weddings being bombed and we’ve seen funerals being bombed.
We should not be selling arms to Saudi until we are sure, until we can be confident, that they will not be used in breach of law.
Protesters will be gathering outside Downing Street on Wednesday evening.
Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: Theresa May might believe the Crown Prince’s ridiculous claims that he is a reformist and a force for liberalism, but people in the UK are not so easily convinced.
This visit is being done to legitimise a brutal dictatorship and to sell arms.
The Crown Prince is the public face of a regime that routinely tortures and abuses its own citizens and has killed thousands of people in Yemen.
We are protesting to send the message loudly and clearly that he is not welcome.