Wednesday, December 16, 2020

One month until ‘Brexit’: Is the UK looking to seal a Gulf free trade deal?

With talks with the EU still deadlocked, London is looking to forge closer trading ties with the GCC


Middle East Eye: The British government has been scouting the world to drum up business with the clock ticking down as it prepares to finally exit the European Union at the end of the year.

And while discussions over the UK’s critical future trade relationship with its erstwhile EU trading partners still appear deadlocked, London has its eyes set on securing a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

Inking an FTA would be a big headline grabber for Downing Street, with bilateral trade worth $60.1bn in 2019, more than with India and Canada combined.

Some analysts suggest that the British government could attempt to package its lucrative arms dealings with the Gulf states into an agreement, even with weapons sales to Saudi Arabia the subject of a continuing legal battle focused on allegations of war crimes carried out by Saudi-led forces in Yemen.

But is an FTA likely to actually materialise, given the GCC’s current internal divisions – over Qatar – and its weak track record in actually ratifying such agreements? Furthermore, what benefits are there for both parties?


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