A visitor tries his hand on an app at Gitex. UAE will be in a strong position to capitalise on post-Brexit opportunities. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News

Dubai: British companies in the UAE will be likely have a preferred status following Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU), also known as Brexit, in 2019, according to two EU trade officials.

Given the entrenched position that the British expatriate population has in the UAE, it will be in a strong position to capitalise on post-Brexit opportunities, they added.

“The UAE is very UK-centric. Because of the long-standing historical links — the UK played the main role in shaping the Gulf countries. So obviously, beyond 2019, Britain will have a preferred relationship with these countries,” Wolfgang Penzias, Trade Counsellor, European Union, told Gulf News in an exclusive interview at Gitex Technology Week.

The EU is currently locked in negotiations with Britain — which voted to leave the EU in a referendum last year — over issues such as citizens’ rights, and the divorce bill.

“UK companies have a very good opportunity here now,” Penzias continued. “Because of the proximity that this country already has to the UK, many standards are already British — look at the plugs, for example. [The UAE] has British plugs. This is the same for building standards, and so on. And I think that may prevail,” he added.

In 2015, trade between Dubai and the UK amounted to Dh29.7 billion, with Britain also constituting one of the top sources of foreign direct investment (FDI) into the UAE.

“The UK is so well entrenched here, not only trading and manufacturing, but consulting, banking, services. Everywhere, you find a Brit. They are, to some degree, the mainstay of this country, I think, along with the Indians,” Penzias said.

The trade official added that he didn’t think the EU “should ever underestimate [Britain’s] potential.”

According to Fahad Al Gergawi, CEO of Dubai FDI, the UAE and the UK are eyeing bilateral trade volumes of around Dh120 billion (£25 billion) by 2020.

Investment into the UK from the UAE has increased since the British pound fell sharply in June of last year, following the vote.

Analysts observed large capital outflows from the Gulf countries in 2016 as investors sought to pick up a London property for cheap whilst the currency exchange rates remained favourable.

“From the UAE’s point of view, they don’t have the same doubts we might have about investing in the UK,” Tania Sateri, an EU Trade Counsellor and colleague of Penzias, said.

“They’ve always been involved in the UK, and probably know the UK better than we do,” Penzias added.

The UAE is the UK’s 11th largest trade partner, whilst it is the EU’s 13th.