UAE relations with Britain would not change if the country votes to leave the European Union and the UK would have more resources to support businesses trading here, according to a former UK defence minister.
Liam Fox, who is part of the Vote Leave campaign seeking Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, said a so-called “Brexit” would not have a major effect on the UK’s current foreign policy.
“Clearly, we’ll have to rebuild some of our diplomatic services that have been run down while we have been under the EU’s auspices,” he said in an interview last week before a speech at the Capital Club Dubai. “But I think that’s a huge positive opportunity for the UK to invest more in the bilateral relations that really matter to us.”
“We’d have more money available for the things we think are important, rather than subsidising the failing bureaucracy of Brussels.”
The UK government estimates the country’s net contribution to the EU was £8.4 billion (Dh35.1bn) last year.
A referendum on whether Britain should remain in the EU is to take place on June 23. The UK’s biggest business organisation, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), is campaigning to remain in the EU. A survey published last week found that 60 per cent of Britain’s banks feared a withdrawal would hurt business.
Mr Fox argued that while “the big banks, the big oil companies and the big companies in the CBI [are] all in favour, because that is what they are comfortable with”, smaller companies want to leave because they are fed up with the costs and bureaucracy of EU regulations.
The CBI and the accountancy PwC recently published research which argued that Brexit could cost the UK economy up to £100 billion and 950,000 jobs being lost by 2020.
The CBI’s director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said that even if Britain managed to conclude a subsequent trade deal with the EU, leaving would cause “a serious shock to the UK economy”, costing up to £55bn and a 3 per cent decline in GDP by 2020.
At the Capital Club event, Mr Fox said that a trade deal between Britain and the EU would be in the latter’s interest.
“The European Union sells £67.1bn more in goods and services to the UK than we sell to the EU. Logic suggests that a trading agreement will occur, because it’s in our mutual interest to do so.”
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