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Thu 30 Jan 2020 10:45 AM

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Post-Brexit trade talks will encompass the entire Middle East

Britain has long-standing relations with Gulf countries, which will be re-enforced after EU exit

Post-Brexit trade talks will encompass the entire Middle East

After its divorce from the European Union takes effect on Friday night, Britain will be free to negotiate its own trade pacts for the first time since joining the bloc in 1973. Image: AFP/Getty Images

Britain’s post-Brexit world will include building strong trade relations with all countries in the Middle East, large and small, according to Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu).

After its divorce from the European Union takes effect on Friday night, Britain will be free to negotiate its own trade pacts for the first time since joining the bloc in 1973, and will take an independent seat at the World Trade Organisation.

Doyle told Arabian Business: “Britain will be keen as it leaves the European Union to negotiate a whole host of free trade deals with other countries including in the Middle East.  In many ways some will see it as a barometer of success or failure.  

“Britain will perhaps target the major economies but even the smaller ones offer opportunities as well.  The big question may well be the UK’s capacity to negotiate so many deals simultaneously whilst also seeking a deal with its largest partners, the EU and the US.”

For now, until a transition period expires on December 31, Britain will remain inside the EU's customs union and single market, which takes nearly half of all British exports including cars, meat and pharmaceuticals, accounting for millions of jobs.

"We are passionate believers in free trade. The UK has been for a long time," finance minister Sajid Javid said in Davos last week.

He vowed that a new deal with the EU itself "absolutely can be done" before the transition period ends, but also warned anxious British business chiefs to prepare for the two sides to diverge in their regulatory regimes.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson insists the deadline will not be extended, and envisions "a Global Britain running a truly global foreign policy", shorn of its EU shackles and profiting from its world-class financial services, technology and creative industries. 

But Irish premier Leo Varadkar laid bare Britain's dilemma this week, warning it will have to concede a "fish for finance" compromise in the EU talks, allowing foreign boats in UK waters in return for unfettered access for its all-important financial sector.

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