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Since its foundation in 1971, the United Kingdom has been a trusted friend of the United Arab Emirates. In recent years, the UAE has aimed to be a source of stability, economic growth and innovation in the region, and the UK has been a valued partner in the pursuit of this goal.

Today there is a thriving bilateral relationship with the United Kingdom covering economic, strategic, and cultural interests. Trade takes place between the two countries across a variety of industries including energy, financial and professional services, education, healthcare, and infrastructure, as well as defence and aerospace.

In addition to trade links, a longstanding strategic partnership exists between the UAE and UK. The Armed Forces of the UAE and the UK have strong ties, working in partnership to preserve security and stability in the Arabian Gulf. In 1996, the UK and UAE signed a Defence Cooperation Accord, which sets out arrangements for security cooperation between the two countries.

During a visit to the UK in 2021, H.H. Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and then Prime Minister Boris Johnson met to establish an ambitious new partnership. The meeting concluded in: 

  • An agreement to establish the Partnership for the Future expanding the breadth of the bilateral relationship.
  • The signing of a MoU on Climate Change and Environmental Co-operation that will support collaboration on climate action, nature-based solutions and fulfilling the Paris Agreement. 
  • Recognition of the UAE elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2022-23. 
  • The announcement of the Education for the Future initiative which involved a series of thought leadership seminars in late 2021. 
  • A shared commitment to deliver at least 12 years of education to girls in both countries. 

UAE-UK Economic Relationship

The UAE is the UK’s third largest trading partner outside Europe, behind only China (including Hong Kong) and the USA. This also makes the UAE the UK’s largest trading partner in the Middle East. There are over 5,000 UK businesses operate in the Emirates. Many British citizens live and work in the UAE, and large numbers of Emiratis visit the UK every year.

Figures released by the UK's Office for National Statistics in 2021 show that bilateral trade between the UAE and UK reached £10.27 billion (AED 55bn) in Q1 2021. This means the UAE is the UK’s 25th largest trading partner globally, and its largest trading partner in the Gulf region.

UAE-UK Security Relationship

The UK and UAE have strong ties on defence and security. In addition to the 1996 Defence Cooperation Accord, in 2009 the UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UAE Armed Forces which covers arrangements for UK forces to utilise air bases in the UAE.

A Police Attaché operates from the UAE Embassy in London. The Police Attaché represents the UAE Ministry of Interior in the UK and works closely with the British police, immigration, and civilian security services. Police forces in both countries value the importance of sharing information and experience and they work together to develop technical cooperation and specialized projects in training undergraduate and postgraduates UAE police officers

More widely, the UAE's contribution to international security and counterterrorism includes:

  • Intelligence cooperation with UK government agencies
  • Agreements with the UK on fighting money-laundering and extradition
  • Endorsement of the Proliferation Security Initiative

UAE-UK Cultural Relationship

Deep social and cultural ties exist between the UK and UAE. Recently, the UAE has made a number of investments to boost technology and innovation. The UAE is a significant funder of UK research and development projects – particularly around environmental technologies and clean energy – while several UK universities have a presence in the UAE.

From October 2021 – March 2022, Dubai will host Expo 2020 and looks forward to welcoming UK exhibitors. The UK has been a keen supporter of the project and several UK businesses have contributed to the construction and development of the event.

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