UAE approached by UK for post-Brexit trade deal

Liam Fox visits Dubai as Economy Minister warns UK of long road ahead

Britain's International Trade Secretary Liam Fox gives a press conference in Bern on February 11, 2019, after signing an agreement with Switzerland to preserve trade relations between the two countries even if London opts to leave the European Union without a deal with Brussels.  / AFP / Stefan WERMUTH
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Britain has approached the United Arab Emirates about a post-Brexit trade deal, according to UAE Minister of Economy Sultan Al Mansouri.

It could take years to reach an agreement with the UK, Mr Al Mansouri said at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

There were no details on an outline for any potential deal.

Britain’s international trade minister Liam Fox visited the summit on Sunday.

“The Emirates continues to be one of the our most important investors with more than £4 billion [Dh18.89bn] in the UK economy,” he said.

“As the UAE continues to diversify its interests abroad, there is a major opportunity for the UK to attract even more Emirati investment.”

Annual trade between the UAE and UK totalled £17.5bn, up 12.3 per cent from 2016, according to official figures.

By 2020, the UK government wants that number to increase to about £25bn.

British companies operating in the UAE include BP, Shell, and Rolls-Royce.

Mr Fox held meetings with GCC delegates to discuss trade as Britain focuses on life outside the European Union.

Mr Fox has previously suggested that the UK will focus more towards “the East”.

In a speech at the Policy Exchange think tank at the beginning of February, Mr Fox commented on the relationship between the UK and the EU.

He said the UK had “always been an awkward [EU] member, unsuited to ever-present union”.

In particular, he is looking to liberalise trade in services.

Britain is expected to leave the European Union on March 29. The UK government has faced opposition against the withdrawal agreement signed with the EU

The document is intended to shape the future relationship with the bloc.

If Britain leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement in place, the country would effectively fall under World Trade Organisation terms, imposing automatic tariffs on goods and services with European countries.

While Britain looks to woo Emirati investors, the EU and the UAE strengthened political ties in January.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed signed an agreement for increased political dialogue.