x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Celebration of a strong relationship and future

The arrival today of Queen Elizabeth II is a chance to renew old friendships.

Abu Dhabi // The arrival today of Queen Elizabeth II is a chance to renew old friendships.

"There are very strong personal relationships between Her Majesty and the Rulers here," said Dominic Jermey, the UK's ambassador to the UAE. He was, he said, "tremendously excited".

The Queen's prime minister, David Cameron, has made a priority of rebuilding Britain's relationships in the Gulf. That started just three weeks after Britain's new coalition government took office in May, with a visit by the British defence minister, Liam Fox. He was followed just a week later by Mr Cameron.

And last month, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, visited Downing Street.

Many countries in the region "feel strong links with Britain but have also felt sidelined in recent years", Mr Jermey said.

"The new government has a very clear strategy. It wants to enlarge its relationship with the UAE and other members of the GCC."

Since July, that ambition has been pursued through a new UK-UAE task force. It has met three times, with a fourth session expected ahead of Mr Cameron's planned visit next year. In addition to bolstering co-operation on defence, foreign policy and travel, the task force seeks to increase bilateral trade from £7.5bn (Dh41bn) a year to £12bn.

While the UAE has made high-profile investments, such as the purchase of Manchester City Football Club, other, more significant deals make fewer headlines. Masdar owns a fifth of the largest wind farm in Europe, the London Array, due to be finished in 2012. Dubai Ports World is building the London Gateway, planned to be Britain's largest port. Such projects, said the ambassador, were greatly aided by the task force.

"It makes an enormous difference if the Emiratis are confident that [the project] has got the support of the British government and the British government is welcoming Emirati investment. Ditto for the British government. It makes an awful lot of difference if that top-level relationship is working."

While the visit fitted with the British government's agenda, the ambassador said "it is absolutely not driven" by it. Neither was the trip about outdoing other suitors of the UAE."I don't see it in comparative terms. It's about celebrating a great and strong relationship that's got a terrific future," he said.