Brexit: what opportunity is available in the Gulf?

Since the Brexit vote, relations have been frosty with the EU. Although the UK is unable to sign any trade deals until it has left the EU, the British government has approached the six nations of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), to try and drum up interest in signing new deals.

Any trade deals would be seen as a financial cushion for the UK from the economic impact of the Brexit. The GCC, comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) have a vast amount of money to invest.

So, what could the estimated £30 billion worth of new opportunities for the UK include? 


Engineering and manufacturing

Along with upmarket cars and sophisticated engineering products, such as water purifiers, there could be massive potential for the aviation industry.

The UK is looking to help construct new airports in the Gulf and is pitching for rail projects and social housing developments in the region. The UK is also keen to push further arms exports, despite concerns that the weapons could be used for nefarious purposes.

With the huge appetite for a free trade deal, Britain may turn a blind eye to the controversy.


Export education

The UK already attracts thousands of higher education students from the Gulf region. Now, some British teaching talent is migrating to Gulf, attracted by the warmer climate and lucrative contracts. With many Gulf States following a British-style curriculum, there could be opportunities to create universities across the Gulf. 


Space technology 

The Gulf region already has a mission to Mars underway and has ambitious plans to create a Space Academy. A British delegation will be visiting Abu Dhabi in January to promote British space technology.


Property development

Gulf states have already made high-profile property developments, such as the financial backing of the Shard in London. The higher stamp duty for properties worth £2m plus is cooling the London property market. However, the capital is still seen as an attractive and stable place to invest.

A breakdown of 2016 sales figures from Chestertons, the upmarket Estate Agent, reflects the high levels of interest from the Gulf. For total London sales, buyers as a percentage of the market:

Kuwait, 21%; Saudi Arabia, 17%; Qatar and UAE: 10%; Bahrain, 7%. The remaining 45% of buyers were from the UK, Switzerland and Iran.

Of particular interest to Gulf investors is the London City Island development, which will offer a mix of residential, leisure and office space, all within easy reach of Canary Wharf and conveniently situated for City Airport. Although trade with the GCC has potential, it’s unlikely to plug the gap that will be left by Brexit but could soften the blow.