A massive vote of confidence in Britain’s economy?
That’s how Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson described BAE Systems’ £5bn deal to flog 24 Typhoon fighter jets to Qatar.
There is, of course, another way to look at the transaction.
It’s also a massive vote of confidence in the willingness of the British to sell weapons to anyone whose money is good.
Qatar is hardly a model of enlightened democracy. But then neither are Oman and Saudi Arabia, which have also bought the aircraft.
According to Mr Williamson, these “formidable jets” will boost the Qatari military in its mission to “support stability in the region” and deliver “security at home”.
You can understand why his press people whipped the statement up, but quite how they worked that out isn’t entirely clear.
Qatar has, after all, been isolated by Egypt, Bharain, the United Arab Emirates, and the Saudis, all of which have accused it of sponsoring terrorism – something the Qataris vehemently deny – as well as being too pally with Iran.
It has responded to this by ramping up military spending, with the Americans and the French also contributing their hardware to what looks like a febrile mix. Britain is hardly alone here.
We keep being told that the Saudis are expected to pitch a follow-on order to the Typhoons they have already bought. Perhaps all this is intended to serve as a motivational tool?
Still, if we buddy up with the Qataris we might at least be able to prevail upon them to knock on Tehran’s door for us if Boris Johnson puts his foot in his mouth again when discussing British citizens languishing in the Islamic republic’s jails. That could come in very handy. Just a thought.
Yes, yes, I get the fact that this will be viewed as a wonderful early Christmas present by thousands of workers who make the things, not to mention the people who help to construct all the bits and pieces that go with the order.
It won’t save 2,000 workers already lined up for the axe by BAE, but there are thousands more people in Lancashire who were facing an uncertain future with production due to end in 2019 in the absence of any new orders.
It will also keep the wolf from the door at Brough in Yorkshire, where the Hawk Trainer aircraft is made (there’s also an order coming for a jet best known for its use by the Red Arrows).
The Government, meanwhile, now has some breathing space as it considers how to secure Britain’s capacity to design and make combat jets when the Typhoon blows itself out, and the certainty that these islands will have something to sell for at least a few years after Brexit.
It’d be nice if that something wasn’t a technological terror that may be destined to stoke tensions in one of the world’s more dangerous regions, but there you go.