Since its foundation in 1971 the United Kingdom has been a trusted and valued friend of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). During the volatile recent history of the region, the UAE has striven to be a source of stability, economic growth and innovation.
Today there is a thriving bilateral relationship with the United Kingdom covering economic, strategic and cultural interests.
Economy and Trade Relations
There are over 100,000 British citizens resident in the UAE and around 50,000 Emiratis visit the UK each year. There are approximately 170 flights each week between the UAE and the UK, operated by British Airways, Etihad Airways, and Emirates. Over 1 million British visitors travel to the UAE annually.
The UAE is the UK’s 14th largest market for exports worldwide and, valued at in excess of £3.2 billion in 2009, by far the biggest in the Middle East and North Africa. Imports from the UAE into the UK were valued at over £1 billion in 2009.
British exports to the UAE cover a wide spectrum of sectors such as telecommunications, power generating machinery and equipment, electrical goods, transport, office machinery, interior and retail goods and non-metallic mineral manufacture.
British companies such as BP and Shell have played a significant role in the development of the UAE’s energy resources.
Britain is also well represented in the service sector, particularly in financial, legal and other professional services. Hundreds of British firms have a presence in the UAE.
The UAE is a significant and dependable investor in the UK economy, injecting capital, creating jobs and contributing to long-term growth.
In October 2009 the Governments of both countries established the UK-UAE Joint Economic Committee, with an explicit target of increasing trade between both countries by 60% by 2015.
Recent trade and investment highlights include:
Defence and Security Relations
The Armed Forces of the UAE and the UK have strong and longstanding ties. Both work closely to preserve security and stability in the Arabian Gulf.
Britain and the UAE signed a Defence Cooperation Accord in 1996 which sets out arrangements for security cooperation and represents Britain’s largest defence commitment outside NATO.
In 2009 the UK also agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UAE Armed Forces which cover arrangements for UK forces to utilise air bases in the UAE, including some sustainment flights to Afghanistan. The UAE’s 250 Special Forces soldiers are the only Arab personnel undertaking full-scale operations in Afghanistan, in support of NATO’s Operation Enduring Freedom.
Over 198 Emiratis have graduated from Britain's Royal Military Academy Sandhurst since 1974, more than from any other country other than the UK. The distinguished list of graduates includes the Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, HH Gen Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and 36 other members of the UAE’s Ruling Families. The most recent, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, graduated in April 2009 and HH Sheikh Majid bin Saud bin Rashed Al Mualla in August 2010.
The UAE Sandhurst Association was launched at a reception in Abu Dhabi in May 2009, by Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) Major General D.J. Rutherford-Jones in the presence of British Ambassador Edward Oakden and Deputy Chief of Staff of the UAE Armed Forces Major General Saeed Mohammed al-Rumaithi.
Other areas of military co-operation between the UK and UAE include loan servicemen, where UK military officers work with the UAE armed forces to help build their capabilities. Britain currently has five servicemen on loan to the UAE in training or advisory roles.
The UAE’s contribution to international security and counter-terrorism includes:
agreements with the UK on fighting money-laundering and extradition
supporting and enforcing UN sanctions to contain Iranian nuclear weapons capabilities.
A Police Attaché operates from the UAE Embassy in London. The Police Attache represents the UAE Ministry of Interior in the UK and works closely with the British police, immigration and civilian security services. Police forces in both countries value the importance of sharing information and experience and they work together to develop technical cooperation and specialized projects in training undergraduate and postgraduates UAE police officers.
The role of a police attaché, currently held by Mr. Mohamed Ahmed Al-Breiki, is varied and challenging: reinforcing international cooperation on security, based on agreements signed by Ministry of Interior and British police and civilian security services; developing the growing number of bilateral links between police forces; and assisting law enforcement agencies in the prosecution of crime. The Police Attaché also oversees UAE law enforcement delegations on official trips to the UK and supervises UAE Ministry of Interior students in Britain.
The successful deployment of a Police Attaché in UK has encouraged the UAE Ministry of Interior to station further attachés in a number of other countries.
Energy - Old and New
British companies BP and Shell have worked with Abu Dhabi since the 1930s to develop the huge potential of the Emirate’s oil and gas reserves.
In 2008 Abu Dhabi’s Future Energy Company Masdar signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Britain, to work jointly to develop renewable energy and low carbon technology, such as wind, solar and marine energy in addition to carbon capture and storage. Britain also actively supported the successful establishment of the International Renewable Energy (IRENA) in Abu Dhabi in 2009.
Masdar is a major partner in the London Array offshore wind park. The Array is set to be almost four times bigger than the next-largest offshore wind park. The first stage will include 175 turbines spread across 90 square miles, 12 miles off the Kent and Essex coasts.
BP and Rio Tinto (through their UK-based joint venture, Hydrogen Energy) are collaborating with Masdar to build a $2 billion industrial-scale hydrogen-fueled power plant, including CO2 capture, to make the first clean electricity generator in the region. The plant is expected to start in 2013.
Foster + Partners is providing the masterplan for Masdar City, the world’s first zero carbon, zero waste city which is under construction in Abu Dhabi, while Mott MacDonald have been appointed as lead designers for all infrastructure and UK consultancy WSP is developing strategies for waste management, drainage and treatment of water and sewage; power distribution; and IT and communications.
In May 2008, the UK and the UAE signed a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy in Abu Dhabi. Rolls-Royce is working with the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) to assess Abu Dhabi’s industrial capabilities to support its proposed civil nuclear power programme.
Construction and Engineering
Some of Britain’s biggest construction, design and engineering companies are contributing to the development of the UAE.
Working with Abu Dhabi’s Aldar Properties, Foster + Partners has designed Abu Dhabi’s new Central Market development, and in 2007 won the intenational competition to design the Sheikh Zayed National Museum. Foster+Partners are also working with the Abu Dhabi-based National Media Council to design the stunning UAE pavilion for the World EXPO in Shanghai, due to open in June 2010
British firms played a central role in the construction of the acclaimed Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the third largest mosque in the world. Halcrow was structural supervisor for the mosque’s exterior. Hyder Consulting provided specialist lighting, acoustics, air flow analysis, and building services.
Financial and Professional Services
The City of London, the UK’s global financial centre, and Abu Dhabi have established close links with the Lord Mayor of the City of London making annual visits to the UAE, and annual investment conferences take place in London.
Several British banks operate in the UAE. HSBC, Barclays and RBS provide a full range of personal and corporate financial services. Standard Chartered Bank has operated in the UAE since 1958.
The depth and range of academic connections between the UK and the UAE is particularly strong.
The British School Al Khubairat, has provided high quality education to generations of children - British, Emirati and from other nations – for over 40 years. Established in January 1968, the school has been sponsored since 1980 by H.H. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi.
The University of Exeter has a long history of friendship and collaborative scholarship with the Middle East. HH Shaikh Sultan Al Qassimi is one of their alumni and hosts the annual Exeter Gulf Dinner at the Dr Sheikh Sultan Al Qassimi Centre for Gulf Studies.
The London School of Economics and the UAE’s Foreign Affairs Minister HH Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan signed an agreement in December 2006 to create a new Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at the university. It was announced in 2008 that the main lecture theatre in LSE’s new academic building would be named after the late HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Durham University has had an Institute for Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies for many years and in 2008 there was an appointment of a new Professorship, the Sharjah Chair. HH Sheikh Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah completed 2 PhD’s at Durham the first a PhD in History with distinction in 1985 followed by PhD in Political Geography of the Gulf in 1999. He was made an Honorary Member of the Centre of Middle East and Islamic Studies in 1992.
Cambridge University and the UAE University continue to work closely together. Professor Alison Richard, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge attended and spoke at the 33rd UAE University Convocation Ceremony which was held on 6 October 2009
In December 1992, HH Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum made a personal donation to the Royal College of Surgeons. This donation was to support of the establishment of an Institute for Ageing Research and Medicine of the Elderly and to also recognise the special relationship which has existed between the College and the UAE since 1977. This agreement continues to allow UAE students access to Medical studies.
The Strathclyde Business School in Dubai and Abu Dhabi has been operating in the UAE for 15 years, initially offering their MBA programme but now includes a range of masters’ programmes.
In June/July 2009 the UAE University, Masdar Institute of Science & Technology and the British University in Dubai were awarded 6 grants in funding as part of the British Prime Minister’s Initiative Connect Research Co-operation Programme. The aim of the research collaboration project is to grow high quality research co-operation between higher education institutions in the UK and around the world.
On 1 November 2009, Durham University and HCT signed a Memorandum of Understanding for educational development. The agreement was signed in Abu Dhabi by HH Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education & Scientific Research, Chancellor of the Higher College of Techology and Professor Christopher Higgins, Vice Chancellor and Warden, Durham University.
Moorfields Eye Hospital runs regular clinics at the Imperial College London Diabetes Centre. Moorfields, founded in 1804, is the oldest and one of the largest centres for ophthalmic treatment, teaching and research in the world.
Culture, Community and the Arts
British companies and organisations have been strong supporters of the work of the Emirates Foundation established in 2005 to support important long-term initiatives across the UAE in the areas of education, society and culture, research and development, social development and the environment.
The Emirates Foundation and the UK’s Booker Prize Foundation launched the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in April 2007. The prize, specifically for prose literature, aims to reward excellence in contemporary Arabic creative writing, to encourage wider readership of quality Arabic literature in the region and internationally, and to encourage translation and publication of Arabic language literature into other major languages.