Saudi Arabia flag
Saudi Arabian people deserve better from Britain than its blind money-chasing trade hawks Reuters

You can have your hands chopped off for the petty crime of theft. And if you do worse, they'll lop your head off clean from the neck with – if you're lucky – the single stroke of a sword.

And those who do not subscribe to the dominant religious belief system, or dissent against the ruling royal crown and its moneyed elite of princelings, are a heretical enemy of the state who must be punished.

It sounds like the kind of mediaeval realm you'd find on Game of Thrones or a history book on Europe's Crusades. But this is modern day Saudi Arabia, a capital punishment-loving, women-hating, terrorism-sponsoring state that has just – rather ironically – made atheism a terror offence.

Don't worry, though, because the door is still well and truly open to British business. The UK does billions of pounds worth of trade every year with Saudi Arabia's vile regime of overlords.

British firms love nothing more than to sell this particular bunch of terrifying religious zealots weapons and other military equipment. And that's why Saudi Arabia is the UK's largest trading partner in the Middle East.

Amnesty International says Saudi Arabia has "severely restricted freedoms of expression, association and assembly and clamped down on dissent". That dissenters are "detained without trial or sentenced after grossly unfair trials". That women are "discriminated against in law and practice and inadequately protected against domestic and other violence".

UK Trade & Investment, the government's overseas business department, gives a different view. To them, Saudi Arabia's "fast-growing economy is creating opportunities for both exporters and investors. These are further boosted by moves to diversify the economy away from dependence on oil and gas, economic reform, market liberalisation and a growing private sector."

Why are we still encouraging trade with this festival of horrors? Where are the government ministers standing up and saying our values are worth more than pounds, pressing Saudi Arabian authorities to stop their barbarism or lose British business?

At least the British parliament is raising the issue. In November 2013, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee demanded that the UK government clarify its position on Saudi Arabia and a similar state, Bahrain. But any real concern was drowned out by the committee's sickening relativism.

"The UK's relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain require a sensitive and nuanced approach, taking into account our long history of relations and shared interests, as well as the differences between our societies," said Richard Ottaway MP, the chairman.

"The government is correct to focus on what is constructive and achievable by working with the leadership in both states, but it cannot simply ignore the charges of hypocrisy and criticism levelled against the UK.

"The FCO must find new ways to explain the UK's approach, to highlight its successes, and to present a more coherent strategy of engagement with these important allies."

Blink and you might have missed it, but "differences between our societies" reveals the pernicious relativist disease that has festered throughout modern British politics.

Cultural differences, such as food and art, are one thing. But we cannot dismiss outright savagery – beheading people in 2013, for crying out loud! – as "differences between our societies".

There's a lot to be said for attempting to wield economic influence, if you have it, and bring about progressive change for ordinary people. That abandoning trade with difficult nations could be counter-productive in achieving a longer-term goal of civil and political rights for oppressed populations.

I would agree with this in general, but it is not a universal rule. As the foreign committee noted in its report, the UK withdrawing its trade would have limited political impact on the Saudi regime to bring itself into the democratic, liberal 21<sup>st century.

So maintaining trade is not about a long-term vision for helping to bring about political change for the ordinary folk of Saudi Arabia.

Instead it's about lining our own pockets and blinding ourselves to the horrific realities of Saudi Arabia, which the UK justifies with its silent trade. Put simply, we need them more than they need us.

The democrats and liberals in Saudi Arabia, who are fighting for their natural rights against a torrent of repression, are betrayed by this Western government and its blind-eyed chasing of business.

As the Saudi government is furnished with British pounds sterling, it's the ordinary Saudi people who pay the price.