By Shane McGinley
United Kingdom is the fastest growing market for UAE lenders
Investments by Emirati banks in the United Kingdom surged by nearly a quarter in the first three months of this year, as a British minister said the London government was keen to sign trade agreements with Gulf states once it leaves the European Union later this year.
Statistics from the UAE Central Bank showed that the value of investments by Emirati banks and their branches in the UK surged 23.9 percent year-on-year to AED61 billion ($16.6 billion) in the first quarter of 2019, making it the fastest growing market for UAE lenders, the WAM state news agency reported.
The investments in the UK represent 10.48 percent of the AED582 billion invested UAE lenders overseas, according to the report.
The UK voted in a referendum in June 2016 to leave the European Union and, after lengthy negotiations and several unsuccessful votes in the British parliament, the deadline now set for the country to leave is October 31, 2019.
Last week, a senior British government official said the UK will explore the possibility of free trade agreements with individual countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) after leaving the EU.
"The question of whether bilateral trade agreements [with individual countries are possible] is something we want to explore after we have left the EU,” Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade, was quoted as saying by WAM.
He said that the UK is not allowed to negotiate any FTAs until it leaves the EU, adding that the UK-GCC trade relations are strong as the UK exports to the region and investments from the region to the UK have increased in recent years.
According to the UK Department of International Trade, UK exports more to the GCC countries than China, with trade between the UAE and the UK alone reaching GBP16.3 billion in the second quarter of 2018.
Fox was attending a ground-breaking ceremony as construction started on the UK Pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai site.
Speaking on the occasion, Fox said: "As the first major international moment after we leave the EU, Expo 2020 Dubai will mark the UK becoming a truly independent trading nation.
"The Expo provides a global platform to showcase our ambition for the future, and our participation provides excellent opportunities for UK businesses that have already won major contracts."