The UK, which voted in a referendum to leave the European Union in 2016, officially left the bloc on January 31 2020, but is still involved in protracted discussions about an exit deal.
The country has been working towards developing its own trade deals after leaving the union, which incorporates countries from across continental Europe as well as the Republic of Ireland, with the deadline to come to agreement of December 31 2020 fast approaching.
“We have had to rediscover trade policy because this is the first time for nearly 50 years the United Kingdom has been able to conduct its own trade policy,” said Lord Grimstone.
“We have in the last few months rolled over 54 trade agreements with countries that previously had agreements with the European Union, we now have those agreements with the United Kingdom.
“We signed a major free trade agreement with Japan just a couple of months ago and we are working hard on free trade agreements with the USA, New Zealand, and we hope to apply to join the Trans- Pacific Partnership next year.”
Lord Grimstone said the UAE and the GCC were ‘right up there’ in terms of opportunities to forge new free trade agreements.
“A trade agreement between our great nations would bring really synergistic benefits to each nation.
These things take time to do,” he said.
“It’s not something we will see appear in weeks or a few months, but I really hope that as we move through 2021 that we are going to find that a free trade agreement between the UK and the GCC is right up there because of the benefits that it is going to bring.”
Al Marri said the UAE was supportive of a trade agreement: “The UAE supports the beginning of free trade negotiations between the GCC countries and the UK, and looks forward to expanding our network of free trade agreements signed with various strategic partners,” he said.
He highlighted the existing links between the two countries, saying the UAE is one of the 27 top investors in the UK, making up 80 percent of Arab investment as of the end of 2018.
There was $5.5 billion non-oil foreign trade between the two countries in the first 8 months of 2020, he said, and the UAE’s non-oil export to the UK accounted for nearly $500 million in the same period, annual growth of 25 percent.
“The bilateral relationships are evident,” he said. “The UAE is home to several British companies today, accounting for $20.5 billion in investment.”
Lord Grimstone admitted that the UK’s struggle to come to an agreement on an exit deal with the EU had caused uncertainty.
“I have to admit that it has caused uncertainty over the past couple of years. It must be obvious to everybody that it’s now in the end game. We will all know where we stand very, very soon now,” he said.
“Our position is quite clear, we want a good agreement with our European friends, but if we can’t reach agreement with our European friends, we will go our own way.
“The good news for investors is that this is absolutely coming to its final conclusions. I think we will all breathe a sigh of relief and we can all start making our investment and business plans accordingly.”
(Reporting by Imogen Lillywhite; editing by Daniel Luiz)
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