ANDREW Neil has said he will quit as chairman of The Spectator should an Abu Dhabi-backed takeover of both the magazine and The Telegraph go ahead.

The journalist urged ministers to block a bid by RedBird IMI, an investment fund majority-owned by senior rulers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to buy the two publications.

We previously told how Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has triggered a Public Interest Intervention Notice (PIIN) to investigate the potential impact the takeover could have on press freedom.

Speaking to Newsnight, Neil said: “My main concern is that the people bankrolling this are the UAE, the United Arab Emirates.

“They are a government, and the idea that government should own newspapers and magazines in Britain I think is absurd.

“But they are not just a government, they are an undemocratic government – they are a dictatorship. The UAE is a terribly successful place – I have done business there – but it is not a democratic government.

“We are a democracy, our publications are part of the democratic process. How could we be owned by an undemocratic government?”

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In her role as Culture Secretary, Frazer (below) has the power to ultimately decide if the deal should be approved, requires further guarantees or amendments, or if it should simply be blocked it outright.

The National: POLITICS

RedBird IMI is majority-owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the vice-president of UAE and the owner of Manchester City Football Club.

Neil continued: “The Government should be stepping in because we shouldn’t be owned by a foreign government – any kind of government, particularly a dictatorship.”

“If RedBird take it over, I’ll be gone,” he added.

RedBird announced in November it had reached a deal with previous Telegraph owners, the Barclay family, to take control of the newspaper group and fellow publication The Spectator by paying off debts owed to their bank, Lloyds.

Frazer’s intervention over press freedom fears also led to a review by media regulator Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority.

Neil was also critical of former CNN executive Jeff Zucker, who is leading the bid.

He told the BBC last month that Sheikh Mansour would be a “passive investor” and that the takeover was “American-led”.

Although he called Zucker a “very impressive broadcasting executive”, Neil said he “knows nothing about Britain, he knows nothing about print, he knows nothing about newspapers, and he knows nothing about magazines”.

He added: “So the idea that these two vital vehicles of mainstream centre-right thought should be owned by Arab money and controlled out of New York by a left-wing Democrat beggars belief.”

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On Tuesday, RedBird announced it had created a UK-based holding company for the Telegraph newspapers.

Officials have informed the fund that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s view is that the restructure has created a new relevant merger situation, which could affect the current process into the potential impact of a takeover deal.

A spokesman for RedBird IMI said the change “was made in order to clarify the point that IMI is a passive investor in the company that will own the Telegraph and as such will have no management or editorial investment whatsoever in the title”.