British companies Rolls-Royce, BP and Vodafone could exit Iran

British companies Rolls-Royce, BP and Vodafone could be forced to exit Iran ‘immediately’ and tear up billion-pound deals as Trump threatens new sanctions on Tehran

  • British business has poured billions into Iran since sanctions relaxed in 2015

British businesses including BP, Rolls Royce, Vodafone and British Airways could be forced to pull out of Iran or scrap all lucrative deals with Tehran after Donald Trump tore up his nuclear deal last night.

UK companies have been fighting for £450billion [$600bn] of business since crippling economic sanctions were lifted after the 2015 agreement between the Persian state and the US, UK, Russia, France, China, and Germany.

Since then Vodafone did a deal to improve broadband and mobile internet in Iran, Rolls Royce agreed to produce jet engines for Iran Air, BP agreed to operate a joint gas field in the North Sea with Iran’s state oil company and British Airways re-started its flights to Tehran. 

Other British businesses are building hospitals, roads and other infrastructure Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s country. 

But last night President Trump promised ‘powerful’ sanctions for Iran for any businesses working with Tehran and warned that they have a maximum of 180 days to wind down those activities or face punishments from the US.

Donald Trump last night tore up the Iran nuclear deal, which could force Britain’s biggest businesses out of the country

 It is not clear yet how any British firms would be punished but in a clue about what is to come Richard Grenell, Trump’s new ambassador in Berlin and a known ally of the President, said last night: ‘German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately’. 

Boris Johnson is fighting to save the nuclear deal but British business has poured money into Iran since sanctions were relaxed in 2015.

Former WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell called Iran ‘one of the last great untapped opportunities for global business’. 

In 2016 BP and Iran’s state-run oil company received a licence from the US Treasury to started operating their joint gas field in the North Sea.

Production at the Rhum field was suspended in 2010 but started again six years later after the removal of EU and UN sanctions were lifted.

In the same year Rolls-Royce welcomed a deal between Airbus and Iran Air for the supply of 100 aircraft, which they make the engines for including 16 Airbus A350s. 

Britain’s Vodafone, the world’s second-largest mobile phone company, did a deal with HiWEB in Iran to improve its broadband and mobile network infrastructure.

With a young population and high levels of mobile ownership, Iran is seen as an opportunity for telecoms companies seeking to expand into frontier markets.

Two years ago British Airways relaunched direct flights to Iran following the lifting of sanctions.

The carrier operates six flights per week between London Heathrow and Tehran, which was suspended in October 2012.

British businesses have also tapped into Iran’s medical, energy and engineering sectors.

International Hospital Group (IHG), a leading international healthcare services company based in Britain, signed an agreement worth £1.8 billion ($2.1 billion) with Iran to finance the construction of a network of cancer centres in the country.  

A London-based investment fund agreed a deal to build one of the world’s largest solar power projects in Iran by 2020.

The deal between Quercus and Iran’s Ministry of Energy is worth over £440million. 

Donald Trump faced worldwide condemnation last night after he pulled the US out of the nuclear Iran deal in a move that inflamed tensions in an already volatile region.

Theresa May, French president Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel said his decision had been met with ‘regret and concern’.

In a joint statement they said ‘the world was a safer place’ because of the deal and pledged to remain committed to it.

The US President said he was walking away from the 2015 pact in order to stop a ‘nuclear bomb’ being acquired by the ‘world’s leading state sponsor of terror’.

Announcing ‘powerful’ sanctions, he warned that if he did not pull out from the deal which is ‘defective at its core’ then there would soon be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

And, in a fresh warning to Iran he said if the country developed nuclear weapons it would have ‘bigger problems then it has ever had before’.

Iran’s president responded by saying that if negotiations fail over the nuclear deal, the Islamic Republic will enrich uranium ‘more than before… in the next weeks’.

The announcement came despite desperate lobbying from a string of European leaders, including Prime Minister Mrs May, Mr Macron and Mrs Merkel.

After a joint phone call, the leaders said the agreement which they remained committed to was ‘important for our shared security’.

‘The world is a safer place as a result’, they said. The leaders also urged Iran ‘to show restraint in response to the decision by the US’.

They said: ‘It is with regret and concern that we, the Leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom take note of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States of America from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.’

In a much anticipated statement from the White House, Mr Trump said: ‘If I allowed this deal to stand there would soon be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

‘Everyone would want their weapons ready by the time Iran had theirs.

‘We cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotting structure of the current agreement. The Iran deal is defective at its core.’

He went on: ‘If we do nothing we know exactly what will happen.

‘In just a short period of time the world’s leading state sponsor of terror would be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.’

The deal was signed by world powers in 2015. Iran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in return for eased economic sanctions.

Tehran claimed at the time it had been pursuing only nuclear energy rather than weapons.

President Trump said that since the agreement ‘Iran’s bloody ambitions have grown only more brazen’. He said that the deal ‘didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will’.

The President pointed out that Iran – a regime of ‘great terror’ had boosted its military spend, supported terrorism and ‘caused havoc’ throughout the Middle East and beyond.

He said he had talked to France, Germany, the UK and friends across the Middle East and said they were ‘unified’ in their conviction Iran must never deliver nuclear weapons.

He went on: ‘America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail.

‘The US no longer makes empty threats. When I make promises I keep them.’ He said he would be open to a new deal in the future.

In a statement immediately afterwards, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said there was a ‘short time’ to negotiate with the countries remaining in the nuclear deal.

He warned his country could start enriching uranium more than ever in the coming weeks.

Mr Rouhani spoke live on Iranian state television. He said he would send Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to countries remaining in the accord.

He said: ‘I have ordered Iran’s atomic organisation that whenever it is needed, we will start enriching uranium more than before.’

He said Iran would start this ‘in the next weeks’.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was deeply concerned by the US decision to withdraw from the deal.

The EU’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the EU wanted to preserve the deal.

She said: ‘The European Union is determined to preserve it [the deal].

‘Together with the rest of the international community, we will preserve this nuclear deal.’

‘The nuclear deal with Iran is crucial for the security of the region, of Europe and of the entire world.’

Mr Macron tweeted: ‘The nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake.’

Tensions were already heightened in the region after Mr Netanyahu announced that Israeli spies had stolen thousands of files on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Israel has also struck Iranian forces in Syria several times in recent weeks.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had travelled to Washington on Saturday where he made a last-ditch bid to prevent the US pullout.

Mr Johnson said Mr Trump would be in line for the Nobel Peace Prize if he can sort out the Iran nuclear deal.

Earlier in the day the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said Iran would not be ‘passive’ if President Trump left the nuclear deal.

He said: ‘It will not be in the American’s interests if the JCPOA (Iran’s nuclear deal) collapses by their offensive…

‘We will not be passive if the United States starts confrontation with Iran.’

Mr Trump has previously condemned the Iran accord signed by his predecessor Mr Obama as ‘insane’ and the ‘worst deal ever’.

Scrapping it was a commitment he made during his election campaign.

Mrs May spoke to Mr Trump on the phone over the weekend. Then Mr Johnson yesterday urged the President not to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ by walking away.

He accepted the agreement was not perfect but warned that there was not a better alternative.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would rather face a military confrontation with Iran ‘now than later’.

He said his country was prepared for a war to stop Iranian forces embedding in neighbouring Syria.

Mr Netanyahu said: ‘We are determined to block Iran’s aggression against us even if this means a struggle.

‘Better now than later.’

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