Egypt and the UK have maintained close political, military and economic relations for decades. In recent years, the two countries realised they have joint interests they should protect.
The UK is one of the largest investors in Egypt in several sectors, including financial services, energy, construction, tourism, pharmaceuticals, textiles and communications. The Egyptian-British Chamber of Commerce plays an integral role in supporting and developing trade and economic cooperation between businessmen from the two countries. With UK investments totalling approximately $48 billion, there are 1,816 British companies operating in Egypt.
For Egypt, the UK has a long-term vision and invariable policies for each part of the world. Regional diplomacy experts believe London has been maintaining a fixed policy for its relations with Egypt based on the notion that Egypt is the central country in the region. When Egypt sneezes, Middle East states get the cold, so goes the British saying.
Despite the positive developments in bilateral relations, London’s embracement of members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) organisation, which is banned in Egypt, is brought again to the fore, particularly following the arrest of Mahmoud Ezzat, the MB’s supreme guide, in Cairo a few weeks ago.
Ibrahim Mounir declared himself the new MB supreme guide from his residence in London. Mounir has a long history with the group. He was the secretary-general of the international organisation, its spokesman in Europe, and the general supervisor of Ikhwanpress.com. Mounir was sentenced to 10 years of hard labour in the 1965 case of reorganising the MB, and in 2012 former president Mohamed Morsi pardoned him.
For the past 100 years, according to countless writings and testimonies, UK governments sought a raison d’état with extremist Islamist forces, including terrorist organisations, providing cover for them, working alongside them, and sometimes trained and financed them, to promote specific foreign policy goals. The UK forged with some of these powers a perpetual strategic alliance to ensure the achievement of basic long-term foreign policy goals, and entered into a marriage of convenience and close union temporarily with other powers to achieve certain short-term results.
That the UK government and intelligence service act like the extremist organisation is not a threat to British interests and being hostile towards the MB could bring trouble to UK politics is a matter subject to UK estimates. However, the group supportive of terrorism has a deep effect on Egypt and the Middle East, which requires the reviewing of the presence and free operation of the MB in the UK, particularly when the group, whom the Egyptians revolted against on 30 June 2013, targets destabilising Egypt and supports terrorist activities that aim to undermine security and stability.
London has turned into a new hub and operation centre for the MB after it was toppled in Egypt. At present, the new supreme guide is reassembling the organisation and embarking on political moves that contravene the UK’s interests with a pivotal state such as Egypt which is facing bloody terrorist attacks, border threats, a cyberwar by terrorist organisations and countries harbouring them.
This raises many questions about London not expressing reservations against the MB’s free operation on its land despite the disgraceful history of the group that has sown “racism, extremism and sedition” in the West.
The record of the new supreme guide and the UK’s interest in maintaining its relationship with Egypt call for the UK to revisit its policies regarding the presence and activities of the MB within its borders. Yesterday’s standards are not valid today.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 September, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly