The Gulf region is a major market for the United Kingdom which has significant investments in the region for exporting goods and services to Europe and Central Asia, as well as to the health and education sectors of the region.
Fox, who was formerly Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, a British Conservative member of the House of Communists, considered that the British government would “make strengthening relations with the Gulf a priority” during the post-Brexit phase, especially after the UK’s actual exit from the EU.
Since its final exit from the European Union early last year, the United Kingdom has been trying to sign trade agreements with various countries around the world, in an effort to diversify its markets. The United Kingdom is looking for new partners to compensate for its exit from the European Union; especially during the Corona pandemic, which greatly affected its economy as it sees the Gulf Cooperation Region as an important source of investment and trade.
The UK Used Funds to Support Gulf Institutions Violating Human Rights
A group of Britain PMs said government funds had been used to send £53.4m to the six Gulf Cooperation Council states between 2016 and 2020 as reported by the Independent newspaper.
According to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Democracy and Human Rights in the Gulf, which drew up the report, the money is going to institutions that are complicit in human rights abuses.
MPs accuse the government of making “misleading and deceptive” claims about the way UK funds are being spent in the region. It’s well known worldwide, that the Gulf Cooperation Council, which make up of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman all have poor human rights records .
The investigation by the MPs focuses on payments made to these states through the government’s Integrated Activity Fund (IAF), between 2016 and 2020, and its successor, the Gulf Strategy Fund (GSF).
Beneficiaries of the funding include the Saudi Arabian National Guard and NIHR in Bahrain, both are “internationally discredited” with regards to human rights
The secretariat of the APPG report confirmed that UK-backed institutions continue to be involved in appalling human rights violations, including alleged war crimes, executions and the torture of children. “UK funding to Saudi Arabia thus supports bodies accused of breaching international law and whitewashing war crimes in Yemen,” the MPs say.
The warning comes as the UK seeks closer relationships with the Gulf states following Brexit – and amid concerns, the pressure to find alternatives to trading with the EU could push Britain into the hands of states with poor human rights records.
We urge the UK government to start putting people before benefits and work with partners around the world to improve their human rights records, including in the Gulf States. As the UK seeks to deepen trade ties with the Gulf, UK Gulf Strategy Fund should be used to encourage Gulf States to respect international law.