Brexit makes UK more attractive to UAE investors, senior finance academic says

Prof Stephen Thomas says GCC countries are in a prime position to gain from post-Brexit trade deals

The uncertainty around Britain’s future relationship with the EU makes the country increasingly fertile ground for Emirati investors, a senior academic at London’s Cass Business School said.

''The UK saw a strong rise in inward investment by UAE banks in the first quarter of 2019, rising over 23 per cent year on year, reaching Dh61 billion ($16.6bn)," Prof Stephen Thomas, associate dean of Cass MBA programmes in Dubai and London, told The National.

"This was the fastest growing market for UAE lenders.

"The ongoing uncertainty around Britain's relationship with the EU has kept downward pressure on the dirham-pound exchange rate, making UK investments increasingly attractive to Emirati investors."

Britain is due to leave the bloc on October 31, but it is still unclear whether it will be leaving with a deal, without a deal or if it will extend the deadline.

"Regional tensions around the Gulf also reinforce the allure of the UK as a desirable destination," Prof Thomas said.

He said that Britain and the UAE's long diplomatic, cultural and business links would further encourage the UK as it sought new post-Brexit trade deals.

Prof Thomas said that GCC countries “are in prime position to benefit from these developments".

Real estate is one UK market in which Middle East investors still have a strong presence, despite concerns about Brexit and how it would affect property.

In September, it was revealed that two thirds of the capital tracked from GCC countries was in Britain’s property sector.

In April, then-British trade secretary Liam Fox called the UAE a “natural home for British business in the Middle East”.

Mr Fox made his comments at the fifth UK-UAE Joint Economic Committee meeting in London.

“The UAE is one of our most important trading partners," he said. "it is our fourth largest export market outside of Europe and accounted for £10.5bn of UK exports in 2018.

"The importance of this market to the UK will only grow as we leave the EU."