uae uk flags
UAE, UK flags Image Credit: File photo

I am very pleased to be appointed as Her Majesty’s Consul General to Dubai and the Northern Emirates. Although this is a new role for me, I am not new to Dubai or the region and have been Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner (HMTC) for the Middle East since 2018 and before that had extensive private sector experience across the region, most recently as Managing Director & Head of Institutional Banking Group, Corporate & Investment Banking Dubai & NE at First Abu Dhabi bank.

Dubai has become my home for the best part of my life since 2009. I am looking forward to building on the long-standing and important relationship between our two countries with special a focus on Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

If I were to describe the role of HM Consul General, I would say it’s “an exciting, but equally challenging, role in a successful country that really matters to the UK”.

Why exciting?

I am excited about it because of the long history of close ties and friendship between our leaders and peoples. This was highlighted by the warm welcome given to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, by Boris Johnson and Prince Charles in London several weeks ago. The UAE is celebrating its 50th birthday this year and has achieved so much in such a short time.

I am lucky to serve here at such a significant times in UAE’s history. Nearly 100,000 British citizens call the UAE home and most are in Dubai, 1.5 million British tourists normally visit the UAE every year, most to Dubai. We value our cultural ties with Dubai including Dubai’s support to the UK’s horse racing industry.

All of us are definitely excited about Dubai Expo later this year. A golden opportunity to showcase the UK and Dubai provides the perfect stage. Particularly as this is the first major global event since the UK left the EU.

Why challenging?

COVID-19 has advanced public health to the forefront of the bilateral relations between our two countries. 2020 was extremely challenging but I continue to be impressed with the approach the UAE has taken to containing the virus — the speed, efficiency and scale of the vaccine roll-out has been breathtaking and has caused the world to take note of the UAE’s progress.

The UAE extended the hands of help to support other countries throughout the pandemic, including the UK for which we are extremely grateful, through PPE donations and making available the Excel centre in London as a temporary field hospital at the height of the crisis. Just this week, Dubai formed the Vaccine Logistics Alliance to expedite the global distribution of 2 billion COVID-19 vaccines through the emirate to developing countries.

We recognise the importance of direct travel between our two countries and we hope to reinstate the direct flights between the UAE and the UK as soon as possible. We also value the Emirati tourism to the UK. Emirati guests visiting the UK are important to us and we hope they enjoy our country as much as Brits enjoy being here in the UAE.

Why successful?

According to key prosperity indicators, the UAE is a regional and global success story. Thanks to the vision of the UAE leadership, Dubai has placed itself as a truly international hub for business, trade and tourism. The UAE leadership have a clear vision to make the country a regional leader and a global player for the good of humanity.

The UK is also a force for good. My objective as the new Consul General is to enhance the depth and the breadth of the successful partnership between our two nations. I will focus on the prosperity agenda and the connections between our two peoples.

I look forward to visiting Sharjah, Ajman, UAQ, RAK and Fujairah in my capacity as Consul General. And on a very personal note, I am really enjoying the “world’s coolest winter” here in UAE.

We’ve enjoyed a wonderful partnership over the last 50 years and we look forward to deepening this over the next 50 years.

Simon Penney is the new British Consul General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates