How might Brexit impact the Middle East?

With a trade deal agreed after years of tough negotiations, Britain’s exit from the EU’s economic and political orbit is imminent.

Much has been made of how relations between the UK and the EU will develop, but experts say that the historic divorce could also impact other critical areas of foreign policy – including trade and security in the Middle East.

Jonathan Hill, director of King’s College London’s Institute of Middle Eastern Studies and a professor of international relations, said Brexit will alter the practicalities of day-to-day trade, with immediate effect.

“The import-export regimen will develop and change,” he said. “Companies [based in the Middle East] will need to conform to specific British standards and they will have to adapt because the rules will change slightly, particularly if they are exporting to Northern Ireland and if supply routes pass through continental Europe.”

There could also be UK divergence in sectors such as agriculture, where there are currently strict EU regulations in place.

“There could be a recalibration of trade and the UK may take a different, more relaxed approach to these agricultural goods,” he said. “You could see more Tunisian tomatoes and Moroccan spinach in the UK than previously. It could be a new market opening up for those countries.”

But more broadly, the UK may also seek to hone its relationships with particular countries in the region.

“The links between the UK and the Gulf will not diminish,” said Gilbert Achcar, professor of development studies and international relations at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

“The UK will try to maintain this special relationship. It was the overlord of these monarchies and it is striving to maintain its influence, along with the US, in order to maintain privileged access to these markets, who are huge buyers of weapons and who invest a lot of capital in the financial markets.”

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