Brexit is an opportunity for Britain and the UAE to strengthen existing relationships in trade and financial services, the new Lord Mayor of the City of London said.
Speaking ahead of his trip to the UAE and Saudi Arabia next week, Charles Bowman said that the region would remain an important trading partner for the UK in the post-Brexit world.
“The Gulf nations, in particular Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have always been hugely important and longstanding economic partners for the UK,” he said. “I hope that my visit will build on this and further strengthen the financial ties that bind us.”
He added: “I am going to be taking with me a confident message about the future of the City and UK financial and professional services in the face of the environment in which we sit in at this time, i.e. the Brexit environment.”
Mr Bowman, who has chosen the Middle East for his first international visit since being sworn in as the 690th Lord Mayor three weeks ago, will no doubt find it easier to promote that “confident message” in the light of Friday’s breakthrough in the Brexit talks.
“I am thrilled and delighted with the events of the past 24 hours,” he said. “It’s my birthday today, and this is a great birthday present, a really tremendous birthday present, or Christmas come early… It’s a great step forward.”
The Lord Mayor, whose role involves acting as the ambassador for the UK’s financial services sector, will lead a business delegation to Jeddah, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Dubai between December 10 and 13, during which he will meet senior members of the government, investment authorities, regulators and business leaders.
The delegation is believed to include representatives from Standard Life Aberdeen, the investment group, and from accountancy firm PwC, where Mr Bowman is a senior partner.
In the UAE, they will meet the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Mubadala sovereign wealth funds, the Department of Finance and the Central Bank, among others. Meetings in Saudi Arabia will include the Islamic Development Bank, Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority and the Tadawul (the Saudi Arabian Stock Exchange).
The meeting with Tadawul has prompted speculation in the UK media that the trip is part of the City's attempts to attract the IPO of Saudi Aramco to London. It follows a visit by Prime Minister Theresa May to the kingdom last week, in which she dined with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is expected to decide on the listing venue.
Mr Bowman did not deny that the Aramco IPO was on the agenda during his meetings in the Gulf.
“We are having a wide-ranging set of meetings through the course of our four-day visit,” he said. “In London, we’re very fortunate to have a phenomenal exchange here, it attracts many international companies – best in class international companies. We would constantly promote the concept of the world’s best exchange and the world’s best companies.”
During his visit, Mr Bowman said he will also look to building “strategic partnerships” with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, in the financial and professional services industry.
“In both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, there are really interesting dynamics happening, not least with regards to Vision 2030,” he said.
“There is a lot up for discussion – how the UK can support economic diversification, commercial tie ups, asset management, wealth management, Islamic Finance, fintech and a host of trade and investment opportunities.”
He added: “As the leading financial centre in the world, the UK has a huge representation of world-class firms with the right expertise and experience that can partner Saudi Arabia and the UAE with their economies and their ambitious infrastructure projects.
“I am looking forward to what I am certain will be a productive few days.”