On 23 June 2016, the UK held a nationwide referendum which resulted in the shock decision to leave the European Union. Before the vote, Dr Liam Fox MP had visited Capital Club Dubai, the leading Private Members’ Club in the UAE, to express his strong “pro-Brexit” views to a packed audience.
In his first official visit to the UAE since the vote, and in his new capacity as the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr Fox returned to the Capital Club and revealed the ways in which Britain’s future position outside the EU will actually help it to become the world’s brightest beacon for open trade.
In his talk, Dr Fox covered in three broad categories – the current trade and investment relationship between the UK and UAE and aspirations for the future, the opportunities from leaving the European Union, and the Department for International Trade’s ambitions – in order to provide evidence that countries in the Gulf have nothing to fear. Indeed, the economic and trade ties between the UK and the UAE will remain as strong as ever.
Firstly, in his speech, Dr Fox passionately highlighted that trade is a two-way street and that thus far, the collaboration between the UK and UAE has been incredible.
He stated, “trade is now taking its rightful place at the heart of government policy making”, and in the post-Brexit era, the two countries cannot allow their ties to slacken.
The UAE remains the 4th largest trading partner of the UK outside of Europe. Since 2009, the number of exports from the UK to the UAE has increased by 39%. The UAE is also a huge investor in Britain: Abu Dhabi Sovereign Wealth Funds have committed to investing in urban regeneration in Manchester, the Manchester Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre, and have already invested over £1 billion in UK offshore wind. Moreover, Dr Fox also highlighted that 100,000 UK nationals wake up every morning and go to work here in the UAE, and that there are over 5,000 UK companies doing business on these shores.
Secondly, the UK now has the glorious opportunity to position itself at the centre of an increasingly interconnected world, according to Dr Fox. A more open economy means a greater two-way flow of investment, both fueling an increased capacity in the industrial base and paving the way to greater export potential. This signifies a win-win partnership between the UK and the UAE.
Dr Fox spoke of the strength of the UK’s economic fundamentals. A globally-admired system of law, low taxation, low regulation, a skilled workforce, record levels of employment, and the highest ranked economy by the World Bank for ease of doing business.
Thirdly, Dr Fox reiterated that the Department of International Trade will champion UK plc around the world to ensure that the number of exports are boosted and both inward and outward investments are encouraged He also stated that the department will be quicker at identifying big-ticket exporting opportunities in high growth markets and that the UAE has already been prioritised for these opportunities.
In his concluding remarks, Dr Fox emphasised that the UK and the UAE are both proud trading nations and asked for support as the UK embarks on its new journey outside the European Union.
“Britain is very much open for business like never before and that is worth getting out of bed for in the morning”, he said.
About Dr Fox
Dr Fox holds a doctorate in medicine from Glasgow University, UK, and became a British Member of Parliament (MP) in 1992, after serving as a GP and Civilian Army Medical Officer. He has held many senior UK cabinet positions including, most recently, Secretary of State for Defence (in government and in opposition cabinets), as well as having previously held the post of Shadow Foreign Secretary.
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