Complex Made Simple

Brexit travel, and trade talks/deals with the UAE, GCC and Egypt

The UK officially left the European Union on January 31, 2020, and though a tariff-free trade agreement has been struck, disruptions and delays are to be expected. What's for sure, is that the GCC and UAE are top of mind for trade

For some travelers, the faltering pound means a trip to the UK is looking very attractive Britain outlined a £4 bn ($5.45 bn) joint Gulf investment fund following talks with the United Arab Emirates UAE’s non-oil export to the UK accounted for nearly $500 million in the first 8 months of 2020

The UK officially left the European Union on January 31, 2020, and though a tariff-free trade agreement has been struck,  disruptions and delays are to be expected, at least to start with, as firms get used to new rules and paperwork. 

The EU has lost 66 million people and an economy worth $2.85 trillion, and it’s worth mentioning the agreement mainly covers trade in goods with little on services.

Brexit travel

It all depends on whether your passport is from the UK, EU, or somewhere else, and what currency zone you’re coming from.

For some travelers, the faltering pound means a trip to the UK is looking very attractive. 

On December 31, as the UK prepared to leave the EU, £1 was worth €1.119 euros or $1.367

Can UK nationals travel to Europe now?

Long-term, yes. Short-term, possibly, or probably not. Most EU countries have borders currently closed to citizens from outside the bloc, due to COVID-19. Now that the UK has “third country” status, citizens have lost their right to travel freely within the EU. 

However, since EU states remain sovereign nations, each country has control over its own borders, and will be able to make an exception for UK citizens should it so wish. 

Germany, for instance, has already included the UK in its list of permitted travel.

Greece is also currently allowing travelers from the UK and has not indicated that this will change.

EU citizens can meanwhile travel to the UK without too many problems.  

Read: Affordable real estate, not just in Abu Dhabi but also in the UK for UAE investors

Trade with UAE and GCC

Trade secretary Liz Truss recently announced: “We have now agreed deals with 57 countries, covering £193 billion ($263 bn) of trade.

Britain outlined a £4 bn ($5.45 bn) joint Gulf investment fund following talks with the United Arab Emirates.

It comes after Boris Johnson welcomed the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Downing Street said: “They agreed to step up ties in a range of areas including green technology, infrastructure, and defense.”

UAE’s economy minister, Abdulla bin Touq Al-Mari, recently commented on post-Brexit trade with the UK in a Bloomberg-hosted web event that included UK’s Minister for Investment Lord Gerry Grimstone and Bloomberg Europe’s Director Constantin Cotzias.

Al-Mari said the UAE is seeking to “digitize” its national economy, building on investment and trade in high-tech areas, including artificial intelligence, research and development, pharmaceuticals, and data analytics, to create a “new economic development model.”

The minister added that the UK would be a “key partner” in the transformation, in which the UAE would “pave the way for UK investment,” bringing “a new dimension” to UK-UAE bilateral ties.

As part of UK efforts to reach trade deals with countries around the world, Lord Grimstone hailed bilateral efforts to “bring the UK-UAE relationship to a new level.”

He said part of the UK post-Brexit strategy is reaching a trade deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in which “the UAE will play a major part,” but cautioned that there are “formidable bumps in the road ahead.”

However, the minister revealed an enterprising vision of a post-pandemic future that features green finance, which will “play a huge role in change,” and artificial intelligence and fintech, which he called “key growth areas.”

He said the GCC and the UAE are “right up there” in terms of opportunity, adding that clean energy and net-zero emissions strategies had “moved up the agenda very dramatically over the last 12 months,” a sentiment shared by Al-Mari. 

He highlighted the existing links between the two countries, saying the UAE is one of the top 27investors in the UK, making up 80% of Arab investment as of the end of 2018.

There was $5.5 bn non-oil foreign trade between the two countries in the first 8 months of 2020, he said, and the UAE’s non-oil exports to the UK accounted for nearly $500 million in the same period, an annual growth of 25%.

“The bilateral relationships are evident,” he said. “The UAE is home to several British companies today, accounting for $20.5 bn in investment.”

Read: The UAE to become UK’s prized trading partner after Brexit

UK, Egypt ink trade deal

Britain’s ambassador to Egypt recently signed an agreement with the country’s assistant foreign minister for Europe, Badr Abdelatty.

The agreement will allow British businesses and consumers to benefit from continued preferential access to the Egyptian market after the end of the Brexit transition period.

After December 31, 2020, the EU-Egypt Association Agreement ceased to apply to the UK. 

The agreement will provide tariff-free trade on industrial products, liberalization of trade in agriculture, agri-foods, and fisheries making trade easier, as well as delivering significant savings to businesses in both the UK and Egypt.

Total trade on goods and services between the UK and Egypt was worth $4.7 bn in 2019.