The UK has approached a number of Gulf countries for a post-Brexit a free trade deal, an Emirati minister said during an economic conference in Dubai on Monday, but quashed hopes in London of a quick deal.
Economy Minister Sultan bin Saeed al-Mansouri confirmed the UK is keen to establish a free trade deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) bloc - which includes the UAE.
With a potentially messy UK exit from the European Union just weeks away, London has been desperate to secure new trade deals to minimise the economic harm of a hard Brexit.
But Mansouri told the World Government Summit in Dubai that free deals are years in the making, crushing hopes of a quick fix for the UK, according to Reuters.
UK to Have Free Trade Agreement With GCC
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Meanwhile, UK International Trade Minister Liam Fox told the panel that he was "looking forward" to a trade deal with the GCC.
The UK has eyed the energy-rich region as key target for exports, and wants to increase trade with the UAE from around $22.6 billion in 2017 to $32 billion in 2020.
Gulf countries are also key buyers of UK arms, with Defence Minister Gavin Williamson on Sunday choosing aggressive words to big-up the capabilities of the British armed forces.
This included favouable references to former Prime Minister's vision of making the British navy capable of establishing a "reign of terror" down foreign coasts.
This alarmed arms control campaigners, such as Andrew Smith from the Campaign Against Arms Trade, particularly as the UK has provided arms to Saudi Arabia in its bloody military campaign in Yemen.
"Williamson rightly condemns those that flout and ignore international law, but the Government is arming and supporting Saudi forces widely accused of violating international humanitarian law in atrocities against Yemen," Smith said.
Mansouri also hinted at the UAE's changing relations with traditional ally the US, when it said it would remain neutral in Washington's trade war with China saying it would be harmful to "all of us", according to Reuters.
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