In the immediate aftermath of the historic decision taken by the British electorate, on 23 June, to sever their country’s ties with the European Union, Capital Club Dubai hosted a packed debate for British expats and UAE business leaders, on 26 June, to highlight the implications and future prospects for the UK and its trading relations with the UAE and the rest of the world.
Over 150 Members and guests attended the event at Dubai’s leading private business club, on Sunday night, showing that even thousands of miles away from the United Kingdom, “Brexit” is a hot topic on everyone’s mind.
Chairing the discussion was Riad Hamade, Middle East and North Africa Managing Editor at Bloomberg News. Francis Matthew, Editor-at-large for Gulf News, and Robert Tasker, Vice Chairman of the UAE’s Vote Leave branch, accompanied him on stage along with Toby Simpson, Managing Director of Gulf Recruitment Group – a regular contributor on work and labour issues on a weekly Dubai Eye radio show.
During last night’s debate, Tasker said:
“The primary concern of the negotiators on either side of the table will be to prevent any further erosion of the 60 year-old European project. There can be no doubt that the Brexit result highlights that reform is definitely needed within the EU. In relation to the UK, I think Britain’s best foot forward would be to look at the framework adopted by Norway and its place within the European Economic Area.”
In light of the 51.9 per cent vote in favour of leaving the EU, last Thursday, Capital Club Dubai is the first place in the whole of the UAE to host a discussion with the UAE business community on how trade relations, the UK government and the rest of Europe will react. It is part of a series of debates that the Club has held going into the referendum, including a packed discussion with Dr Liam Fox, former UK Defence Secretary, back in March, and a follow-up debate in May.
Experienced panelists from both sides of the debate were present on Sunday night to convey their opinions on the recent events and to lend their expert analysis on the outcome of the referendum. With the result coming out in favour of leaving the EU, there are many uncertainties related to how the UK will interact with its trading partners and how regulations will need to be renegotiated and the panelists outlined the possible conditions that will now have to be met.
Adding a positive slant to the arguments over uncertainty, Simpson added:
“One of the plus-points of the UK exiting the EU is that it will be able to make trade agreements quicker. One of the reasons it may be faster is that the UK is just one country and will not be negotiating as part of a 28-country trading bloc.”
Another issue related to the UK referendum is that it has divided the country by its regions, with Scotland, Northern Ireland and London voting in favour of staying in the EU. The implications from the result are, therefore, still yet to be fully understood and whether this will trigger a further round of secession talks within the United Kingdom’s constituent countries remains an issue that businesses will be paying close attention to.
Reviewing Brexit’s impact outside of the EU and in other world regions like the GCC, Matthew, said: “The UK’s situation won’t really change much in relation to the MENA region. The UK-UAE relationship continues to be a strong relationship both politically and on trade.”
“No doubt, the UK leaving the EU is a body blow to the European project and leadership; however, the lesson to be learned here is that European bureaucrats have to find a way to re-engage with a groundswell of opinion, across the continent, that has voters feeling disenfranchised,” added Matthew.
Part of Capital Club Dubai’s ongoing series of talks, the Brexit debate took place at the club itself, in DIFC, on 26 June. For those interested in attending similar events in the future, contact Capital Club Dubai’s Member Services on firstname.lastname@example.org.