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UK may ease visa regime for Emiratis within months: envoy

UK and UAE governments in constructive discussion on visa regime, UK ambassador says

Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News
Dominic Jermey, the British ambassador in the UAE
Gulf News

The UAE and UK have been engaged in a very constructive discussion on visa rules for Emiratis and the ongoing process will reach a conclusion within months, Dominic Jermey, the British ambassador in the UAE, said on Sunday.

“There is an ongoing process between the two governments that is really important, very constructive and that will reach a conclusion in due course, but not by next week,” Jermey said as he briefed the media on the state visit President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan will pay to the UK from April 30 to May 1 upon an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II.

This is the first state visit of Shaikh Khalifa to the UK since the visit of Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1989.

It follows on from a trip to the UAE by the Queen and Prince Philip in 2010, when the two nations reaffirmed the 1971 Treaty of Friendship. That was their first visit since 1979.

The ambassador, however, did not want to jump to conclusions over the outcome of any visa-related decision. “The UAE’s negotiation and diplomacy on this issue have been superb. I take my hat off to the UAE on this one and that’s why I am pleased that there is a very constructive conversation on that one,” he said.

The UAE’s government and people have arguing that as the two governments debate major issues of defence, nuclear and trade cooperation, and education and cultural ties are made more effective, it is also important that the visa regime should be made truly reciprocal.

Jermey said from the UK’s viewpoint, it looks at its border security from a global perspective. “But it is not a fast-moving discussion with any country. When I say there is a constructive conversation between the UK and the UAE that is moving along in a very … I cannot say it in any other way, a constructive way, that is exactly what I mean,” Jermey said.

Jermey said the Queen will host Shaikh Khalifa at Windsor Castle and hold a state lunch in his honour on the President’s first state visit to the country. “The pretty exceptional visit will be a celebration of relationship between the two peoples. It is a significant personal moment in the warm relationship between President Khalifa and the Queen, as well as a milestone in the bilateral relationship between our two countries,” the UK ambassador said.

“Shaikh Khalifa will be travelling in horse throne carriages to Windsor for a formal welcome from the queen. At Windsor Castle, a formal state luncheon will be hosted with all the great and good of the UK attending. Shaikh Khalifa will also review a Guard of Honour.

On the second day of the state visit, Shaikh khalifa will meet the British prime minister, David Cameron, at 10 Downing Street.

Cameron visited the UAE last November, when the two nations agreed to cooperation in areas such as trade, defence and climate change.

Shaikh Khalifa will also lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown warrior in Westminster Abbey and have tea with Prince Charles at Clarence House.

Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister, had earlier said: “Shaikh Khalifa’s official visit to the UK comes as a response to the invitation extended by Queen Elizabeth II. The visit is also a witness to the deep historical relations binding the two countries together and the great ongoing cooperation between the two countries.”

Shaikh Abdullah added that the UAE under the wise leadership of Shaikh Khalifa is committed to strengthen the bilateral ties between the two countries on all levels, while especially concentrating on trade, education, regional and international security.

The UAE and UK are seeking to enhance trade to reach Dh70 billion in 2015. The UAE is considered the biggest importer from the UK in the Middle East and North Africa. UK exports to the UAE grew by 9 per cent last year. There are 170 air flights between the two countries every week.

Jermey said bilateral trade was around £11 billion (Dh61.50 billion) and the two countries were targeting to reach £12 billion in the near future.

He said there were around 4,000 British companies in the UAE and more than 100,000 British expatriates living and working in the country. The UAE also receives more than one million British tourists every year, and 30,000 UAE nationals visit the UK as tourists each year, he said.

He added the UAE was an important investor in the UK economy. Large sums of capital are pumped into the economy by the UAE and work opportunities are provided and contributing to long-term economic growth.

The value of UAE investments in the UK exceed £5 billion. These investments include the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (TAQA) in the North Sea, the Dubai International Ports projects in London Gate Way, which is one of the biggest individual projects in the UK, offering 35,000 jobs, and Dubai International Ports Containers Station – Southampton which is a joint venture between Dubai International Ports and Associated British Ports, among many others.