Theresa May has recently defended the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, a country which is known to regularly purchase UK made weapons. This defence could well be a sign that Britain is looking to strengthen political and economic links with the UAE and Saudi Arabia (possibly as a result of Brexit). This article will look at some of the potential implications of this relationship.
In June 2016 Britain voted to leave the European Union having been a member since 1973. This was a major shock to the world (and indeed to many in Britain), and has caused much debate as to the country’s political and economic future outside of the EU.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia are two countries with a lot of wealth and influence in the Middle East. It is therefore unsurprising that Britain could be looking to form stronger bonds with these countries as it abandons political and economic ties with Europe.
Britain has been selling arms to Saudi Arabia (amongst others) for a number of years, and so this controversial industry is likely to see a boost from a strengthened relationship. It is also interesting to note that the UAE dirham has been consistently rising against the pound.
This could be of particular interest to those trading forex with the likes of ETX Capital as the currency continues to climb in value. As these countries are rich in oil, Britain may also seek to form some type of trade deal over this lucrative resource.
Politically, Britain is undoubtedly very different from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Both Middle Eastern countries have poor human rights records and have come under scrutiny from the international community as a result. Theresa May has nonetheless defended selling arms to Saudi Arabia despite claims that they have been used to commit crimes against humanity.
Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen for a number of years, causing famine and civilian casualties. In a similar vein, the UAE’s treatment of migrant workers is seen by many as modern day slavery, and so Britain may well have to address the human rights issues within these countries to avoid scrutiny itself. It may prove challenging to reconcile these types of controversial differences completely.
That being said, a strengthened relationship will probably be one which focuses more on better trade deals and intelligence sharing rather than political unity. With the climate in the Middle East still incredibly unstable, and Britain facing the economic uncertainty of Brexit, British international policy is likely to be based on Britain protecting its own interests rather than the human rights records of the countries it deals with.
It is hard to tell exactly what the implications of strengthened ties between Britain and the UAE/Saudi Arabia will entail. There is no doubt that the countries have mutual interests (mostly economic), but differ entirely in relation to culture and politics. As controversial as the relationship may be, it is still likely that there will be some form of deal as Britain leaves the EU and seeks to reform its trade ties internationally.
If you're interested in writing for International Policy Digest - please send us an email via firstname.lastname@example.org