Press release

PM seeks to turbo-charge trade between the UK and the Gulf

The Prime Minister attends a 2-day summit in Bahrain with leaders of the Gulf countries to discuss scoping out new free trade arrangements.

  • new joint working group to boost trade and discuss opportunities for developing post-Brexit trade between the UK and the Gulf
  • UK to participate in Expo 2020
  • new 5-year multiple entry visa for British businesses visiting Saudi Arabia

The Prime Minister flies into Bahrain tonight for a 2-day summit with leaders from the Gulf countries at which she will seek agreement to scope out the possibilities for ambitious new free trade arrangements between the UK and the Gulf once the UK has left the EU. The Prime Minister will become the first British Prime Minister and the first woman to attend the annual gathering of the Gulf Co-operation Council.

The government has identified £30 billion of high-value opportunities for British businesses across 15 different sectors over the next 5 years in the Gulf and the Prime Minister will announce that the UK will participate in the Dubai World Expo 2020, continuing a tradition started here with the ‘Great Exhibition of the Works and Industry of All Nations’ in Hyde Park in 1851, and bringing together over 180 nations.

Beyond this, any free trade arrangement between the UK and the Gulf could unlock significantly more trade and would be the first regional approach that the UK has explored since deciding to leave the EU. The Prime Minister is expected to agree with Gulf leaders to establish a new joint working group to examine how we can unblock remaining barriers to trade and take steps to build the closest, freest trading relationship between the UK and the Gulf post Brexit.

Speaking ahead of the visit, the Prime Minister said:

The Gulf is already our largest investor and our second biggest non-European export market and I think there is huge potential to expand this relationship in the years ahead. That’s why it is such an honour to be invited to attend the Gulf Co-operation Council where I will have the opportunity to talk to all 6 leaders about how we can develop our trade relationship, as well as co-operation on security and defence.

Across these 6 countries there are exciting opportunities for British business, from energy to education, infrastructure to healthcare and here in the UK, investment from the Gulf is helping to regenerate cities from Aberdeen to Teeside, Manchester to London.

As the UK leaves the EU, we should seize the opportunity to forge a new trade arrangement between the UK and the Gulf. This could transform the way we do business and lock in a new level of prosperity for our people for generations to come.

A series of additional measures to bolster bilateral trade between the UK and the Gulf are also set to be agreed during the visit, including:

  • a delegation of small and medium-sized businesses visiting Abu Dhabi in January to promote British business interests in space technology
  • a new agreement with Saudi Arabia to allow British businesses to obtain 5-year multiple entry visas for the first time, creating opportunities for more bilateral business to be conducted
  • a government-hosted event at the Mansion House in London in March focussed on helping the Gulf diversify its economies, bringing together ministers, the Lord Mayor, senior business representatives from the City with delegates from the Gulf

The Prime Minister will also meet with senior investors from the Gulf on Wednesday morning to underline that Britain remains open for business and to explore further opportunities for inward investment.

Find out more about the Prime Minister’s visit to Bahrain.