George Osborne has been told not to be too quick to “plant his flag” in Iran after unveiling plans for a trip only weeks after the country agreed to limit its nuclear programme.
Britain’s chancellor this week said he would lead the UK’s biggest trade delegation so far to Iran next year, in the hunt for business opportunities following this summer’s breakthrough agreement.
Speaking in Beijing, he said: “We can either sit on the side-lines, watch the world move ahead and gradually decline, or we can get out there and plant our flag in the ground.”
However Jewish community leaders warned against a dash for deals, with , concerns that sanctions could unravel before the country implements its nuclear commitments.
Board of Deputies’ senior vice-president Richard Verber said: “We are very concerned that a loosening of sanctions on Iran will occur,” he said. “We would urge the UK Government to show serious caution in the development of this relationship.”
Arieh Miller, director of the Zionist Federation, likewise said the government “should tread carefully when reaching out to the Iranian regime,” adding: “Open commerce with Tehran might boost the British economy, but it will also bolster extremism, hamper moderation, and fund terrorism.”
Britain last month reopened its embassy in the Islamic Republic, after it was attacked by a mob in 2011, as Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said sanctions could be lifted as early as next spring. However, Osborne will not be the first foreign statesman to visit Iran, Germany’s Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel having already been.