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25 February 2024

Trade relations with UAE 'will get stronger' after Brexit: UK Minister of State for Trade

By Wam

The UK pavilion at ADIPEC reflects so much energy; "you can see it from the sky. Someone told me so. It’s so big. It shows how important our presence in the UAE is for us," the UK Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion has said.  

"Fifty companies from all over the UK; from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England are participating at (Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference). It shows how strong our partnership with the UAE is," Baroness Fairhead CBE told the Emirates News Agency in an exclusive interview.

Baroness Fairhead dismissed any negative impact of the Brexit on her country’s relations with the UAE and the entire region. "They will get stronger. We have an efficient export strategy to increase our export level from 30 percent to 35 percent of our economy.

"Less than 10 percent of UK companies are currently exporting; so we see a lot more potential to work and look outside. We've approached our businesses and asked them how do you want us to help you so that we can achieve this target."

She affirmed that UAE and UK are focusing on the same platforms: "use of big data, Artificial Intelligence; we are both moving towards cleaner energy. And that’s why the potential is huge for us to grow our business regardless of whatever the outcome of Brexit is. There is a strong desire in the UK to look outside more to markets that we have not tapped before."

"UAE is the fifth largest trading partner for the UK outside Europe, coming after USA, Japan, China and Hong Kong, and bilateral trade is now growing in double digits. In terms of investment, we are the biggest foreign direct investor today in the UAE. And I believe it has to go both ways so it becomes good for you and good for us.

"We are working as partners and UAE is increasingly investing in a number of sectors in the UK, not just in real estate, but now in other industries like wind power. There are reports as well about a UAE sovereign tech fund that will come through London and probably for all of Europe. We are seeing so strong links now to sustain a stronger basis for our partnership to grow further."

According to the minister, the UAE-UK trade amounted to 17.5 bn British Pound ($22.7 bn) in 2017. UK exports stood at 11.1 bn pound, including 7.6 bn in commodities and 3.5 bn in services. UAE exports to the UK reached 7.4 bn pound in 2017.

The UK government seeks to increase the trade exchange between the two countries to around 25 bn pound ( $32.5 bn) over the coming period. There are 6000 UK businesses, with direct trade relations with the UAE out of a total of 10,000 in the GCC region.

"If we look at the way UAE is moving, it shows that you have been very significantly supported by oil and gas. But now you are diversifying and you want to grow much more in education, life sciences and you want to use new technologies in order to make the existing oil and gas wealth more efficient, utilizing AI, machine learning, looking at cleaning forms of energy and different forms of mobility, including autonomous vehicles," said the minister.

"For us, if you look at the UK industrial strategy, we have the government and academia working together and we are focused on the same platforms as you, and that’s why we have huge potential to grow our partnership."

Baroness Fairhead was a former Business Ambassador for UK Trade and Investment, with prior roles as Chairman of the BBC Trust (2014-2017) and the Financial Times Group (2006-2013). On 28 September 2017, she assumed office as Minister and was later created Baroness Fairhead of Yarm in the County of North Yorkshire.