Forging Post-Brexit Alliances: The Strengthening UK-UAE Economic Partnership by David Glass

Brexit and the UAE ( United Arab Emirates)

There is a tight-knit and growing commercial relationship between the UK and the UAE, not least in the financial services sector. The Lord Mayor of the City of London, Michael Mainelli, highlighted this in an article that he wrote for “City AM”, published on 29th April 2024, on the occasion of his forthcoming visit to the UAE and  Saudi Arabia to promote potential collaboration between the City and those jurisdictions.

In this context, it is worth analysing recent trade and investment statistics between the UK and the UAE. The UK Government’ s Department for Business & Trade (“DBT”) published one of its regular factsheets on 19th April 2024, which provides some of this analysis and  shows that total trade in goods and services ( exports plus imports) between the UK and UAE was £25.3 billion in the four quarters to the end of  Q3 ( Quarter 3) 2023 , an increase of 21.4% or £4.5 billion in current prices from the four quarters to the end of Q3 2022. Of this £25.3 billion:

  • Total UK exports to the UAE amounted to £15.6 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q3 2023 ( an increase of 23.3% or £2.9 billion in current prices , compared to the four quarters to the end of Q3 2022);and
  • Total UK imports from the UAE amounted to £9.7 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q3 2023 ( an increase of 18.5% or £1.5 billion in current prices, compared to the four quarters to the end of Q3 2022).

According to the DBT factsheet, the UAE was the UK’s 19th largest trading partner in the four quarters to the end of Q3 2023, accounting for 1.4% of total UK trade.

The factsheet also showed that , in 2021, the outward stock of foreign direct investment (“FDI”) from the UK in the UAE was £5.2 billion , accounting for 0.3% of the total UK outward FDI stock, and that, in the same year, the inward stock of FDI in the UK from the UAE was £7.4 billion, accounting for 0.4% of the UK inward FDI stock.

There are clearly interesting bilateral commercial opportunities for the UK and UAE in the post-Brexit era!

Brexit and Rembrandt’s Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, there resides Rembrandt’s enigmatic painting known as “Aristotle contemplating a Bust of Homer” ( but also called more prosaically “Aristotle with a Bust of Homer”).

The painting reveals Rembrandt at his best but also has given rise to much speculation as to what is the real theme of the painting. Joseph Heller, the famed American author of “Catch -22”, wrote a novel which was published in 1988  called “Picture this”, which sought to analyse ( in the form of historical fact-based fiction ) the essential meaning of the painting.

Heller  brilliantly interwove the stories of ancient Athens and classical Greece and the intellectual icons of those times ( including Socrates, Plato and most particularly, Aristotle) with the story of the Dutch Republic of the 17th century  and its own artistic icons ( including in particular , Rembrandt),being a time at which the Netherlands was at the height of its world influence. What is demonstrated is that wars and tensions between peoples are a continuing theme over the centuries, as indeed continues to be evident to this day.

The Athens of Antiquity and the post-Renaissance world of 17th century Netherlands both contributed massively to the culture of Europe  and humankind and  the eloquent American, writing in English, took it upon himself to explore all this in his examination of Rembrandt’s great work of art , now on display in his native city of New York,

How is this relevant to Brexit? Some would say very relevant – the UK is no longer part of the EU but it remains part of the vast swathe of European and world thought evoked by the painting.

In the concluding chapter of his book, Heller describes humankind as “resilient”, even though “there are outrages and there are outrages, and some are more outrageous than others”.

We shall all no doubt continue to watch how the world turns!


Brexit and the Hungarian Presidency of the EU

Hungary is due to hold the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU from 1st June 2024 to 31st December 2024.

On 8th May 2024, Peter Szijjarto, the Hungarian Foreign Minister, was the guest speaker at Chatham House at a Q & A session to discuss  the strategic perspectives for the forthcoming Hungarian Presidency of the EU due to take place from 1st June to 31st December 2024.

Mr Szijjarto identified three main priorities for the Hungarian Presidency, namely,  to focus on the prospects for EU enlargement  ( particularly for countries from the Western Balkans), to  combat illegal migration, and to promote the competitiveness of the EU ( particularly following such events as Brexit and the exit of the UK, a G7 member, from the EU accordingly).

Meanwhile, on 8th May 2024, Hungary welcomed President Xi of China on an official visit to the country, with Hungarian leader , Victor Orban, and the Chinese leader  being to set to sign at least 16 trade and investment deals on behalf of their countries during the Chinese leader’s visit.( This was part of a more  extended trip by President Xi to the EU , which included visits to France and Serbia as well as to Hungary.)

The Hungarian Presidency of the EU  should be an interesting one!

Brexit and a European Citizens’ Initiative

On 14th May 2024, reportedly the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) entitled “Save the Planet by shifting taxation from labour to greenhouse gas emissions” was registered by the EU Commission and published in the Official Journal of the EU.

Within 6 months of this registration , the organisers of the ECI would need to launch a one-year process of collection of statements of support. It is understood that if the ECI manages to collect a million statements of support from at least seven different member states within the required period, the EU Commission would reportedly have to formally reply within six months, stating the action that it intended to take, if any, and the reasons.

Grassroots democracy in action and something of which the UK will no doubt take note!

Brexit and a Better Business Act

On 16th May 2024, “City AM “ reported that , according to research from B Lab UK to mark Better Business Day ( 15th May 2024) , over three quarters of the UK public believed that businesses should be legally obliged to safeguard people and planet Earth alongside profit.

Some 76% of the public were found to have supported calls for a “Better Business Act”, which would seek to bring the interests of stakeholders   like workers in line with those of shareholders.

Asked for their top reason for supporting the change, 28% apparently wanted companies to protect staff, while 25% said businesses should have a legal responsibility to safeguard the environment.

In a letter to The Times published on 16th May 2024, Mary Portas and other business leaders called for section 172 of the Companies Act 2006 ( concerning the duty of a director to promote the success of their company) to be updated through a “Better Business Act” that “would put society, workers – and the bottom line – on an equal footing”.

Changing times!