UAE's defences should reassure visitors the country is safe, says senior British MP

David Jones, the head of Britain’s Gulf group in parliament, says the UK is committed to building on its economic ties with the Emirates

MP David Jones says the UAE is a dynamic country with enormous ambitions. Photo: UK Parliament

Visitors to the UAE should feel safe thanks to the country's strong defences and track record of intercepting Houthi missile attacks, a senior UK MP has said.

David Jones, the head of Britain's Gulf group in the British parliament, said the "impressive efficiency with which the security forces destroyed the incoming missiles will have provided huge reassurance to visitors that the UAE remains a safe country to visit".

In an exclusive interview with The National following his visit to the UAE last week, Mr Jones hailed the country's dynamism and ambition and said Britain was committed to cementing its economic ties with the Emirates.

In the months before Mr Jones's visit, the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen had launched a series of attacks targeting Abu Dhabi.

The UAE's air defence systems took down several ballistic missiles and destroyed drones before they could reach their targets. But a strike by the militants on a fuel depot in the capital on January 17 killed three people.

“I was very sorry to hear of the drone and ballistic missile attacks on Abu Dhabi, but admire the efficiency of the defensive response. There is no doubt that these attacks were acts of terrorism, and should be condemned as such by the international community,” Mr Jones said.

Senior UAE officials have called on Washington to re-designate the Houthi movement as a terrorist organisation.

Mr Jones said the UK government took the right step in 2018 when it re-established a permanent military base in Bahrain to boost its military presence in the region. The HMS Jufair base at Mina Salman dates back to 1935, nearly four decades before the kingdom declared its independence.

“I am pleased that the UK has made a strong commitment to the region in terms of military support, including the re-establishment of HMS Jufair in Bahrain. Now that the country has left the EU, it is re-adopting its traditional global outlook,” said Mr Jones.

During his visit to the UAE, Mr Jones met senior Emirati officials including Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Co-operation and Director General of Expo 2020, and Dr Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the President Sheikh Khalifa. He also met representatives of the British business community.

The UAE is an important investor in Britain, with £10 billion pledged last autumn, more than £3.4 billion of which has already been delivered, according to Mr Jones.

“I left the UAE with no doubt as to the strength and importance of the relationship between our countries. The UAE is the fourth biggest business partner of the UK outside the EU. The UAE is home to over 100,000 British citizens, who make a huge contribution to its economy and cultural life,” he said.

Mr Jones said the UAE's progress over the past 50 years was remarkable and pointed to the Hope probe currently orbiting Mars as evidence of the country's rapid technological advance.

“It is precisely the sort of country with which we need to forge even stronger relations,” he said.

Updated: February 24, 2022, 3:00 AM