In an earlier column, I pointed out that when Britain leaves the EU, it will have to forge stronger and broader ties with cities and countries all over the world.
All UK citizens and residents should hope that the forthcoming general election will deliver a parliament better able to frame a legislative programme to do this, and an executive more empowered to implement it.
It can be done.
However, as Churchill famously said after the Battle of El Alamein, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but perhaps it is the end of the beginning.
Global trade will be key and as one of the world’s leading metropoles, Dubai, and by extension the UAE, is fundamental to this objective. Huge amounts of goods and services have been — and continue to be — exchanged between the two countries.
According to the most recently available figures, total trade between Great Britain and the UAE rose year-on-year by over 12 per cent. to £17.5 billion in 2017.
British exports to the UAE were £11.1 billion, while UK imports from the UAE were £6.4 billion. Britain has expressed an ambition for the total figure to rise to £25 billion by 2020.
London and Dubai clearly play a significant part in this relationship.
The two cities have so much in common: trade, commerce, entrepreneurialism, innovation, powerful financial centres, a belief in strong leadership, an intolerance of crime, a sound work ethic and a commitment to a better and more sustainable future.
I previously mentioned the remarks of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on the respective countries’ long-term friendship.
Remember too, the British Prime Minister’s comments when he visited the UAE in 2013, while he was still running London, to the effect that he considered himself to be the Mayor of the “eighth emirate”.
I was there, and it went down a storm.
Filter out misconceptions
However, not enough people understand just how much the two cities have in common or the factors that will underpin a mutually beneficial and highly profitable trading relationship.
Too many of the opinions of each other are based on only a few popular misconceptions rather than a multitude of future opportunities and the broader picture.
Dubai is far more than a city of sun, sand, sports cars and skyscrapers. The current view of London is as the seat of government that has not helped itself with a parliamentary system obsessed with short-term outcomes, not long-term vision.
But, like Dubai, it remains one of the world’s leading hubs for culture, sport, finance, transport, innovation and academia.
The Dubai Metro recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary; but which company has maintained and operated it for the whole of that time? Serco, a British business headquartered less than an hour’s journey from London.
The Expo 2020 Dubai is obviously an opportunity for all countries and their cities to showcase their qualities and potential as trading partners, and that includes Great Britain and London.
Dubai has invested heavily not only in its responsibilities as host to provide them with the best possible forum, but also in the legacy of the event itself.
What Dubai has done already to make the event a success is nothing short of incredible.
New highs are within reach
Beyond this, though, both cities have a much bigger and longer term opportunity to forge an even higher level of mutual understanding and appreciation, based on a greater number of supporting facts, figures and arguments.
They need to strain every sinew in selling themselves as the best places in the world to live, work, relax and be entertained.
There is also no substitute for face time and personal engagement, nor is it ever too late, even when events conspire against you. London discovered this in 2014 when several Emiratis had been the victims of horrific assaults in London.
The lack of pick up in the UK media caused some in the UAE to wonder whether London cared; but within days of this being made known to City Hall, representatives from London’s police force and tourism board travelled to the UAE to speak to the media and reassure its leadership and citizens.
The attacks were isolated and unrelated, they said, and were not a reason not to continue to visit London.
We have thankfully moved on from then, and now there is scope for the relationship to strengthen further. How great would it be if the number of Emiratis working in full-time jobs in London could triple in the next 30 years?
If the same could happen to the number of British expatriates travelling to Dubai not only as holiday makers or transit passengers but equally as long term residents and business partners, that would surely prove that His Highness’ words in 2016 were prophetic.
Archie Berens is Managing Director at Hanover M.E.