It is an honour and a pleasure to welcome Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip back to the UAE, 31 years after their last state visit. The country may look vastly different from when they were last here, but the spirit of the Emiratis and the warmth of their welcome will not have changed. The state visit marks a significant milestone in the relationship between the UK and the UAE. The close personal friendship between Her Majesty The Queen and the royal families of the UAE is underpinned by the strongest political, commercial and individual ties.
We are seeing unprecedented political efforts being invested right now in this long-standing relationship. But cooperation goes way beyond the politics. We want the UAE to see the UK as a partner of choice, whether it is collaborating politically, dealing with shared threats together, or developing our economies to mutual benefit.
British institutions have been instrumental in educating current and future generations of Emiratis, both through British schools and universities and through professional qualifications, keeping links between UK institutions and Emiratis tight. British innovation and skills have helped develop the financial services sector in this country; those same qualities have fostered the growth of the creative industries here. UK companies Shell and BP have worked with Abu Dhabi for 70 years. Their successes in developing the potential of the oilfields here and their significant investments in hydrocarbons and renewable energy have paved the way for other British companies to bring their expertise to these shores.
One prime example is Ferrari World, designed by a British company, Benoy, which opens to the public this month. It is great to see British innovation supporting the world-beating ambition of the UAE as a high-value tourist destination and it will continue to do so with landmark projects such as Foster + Partners’ Masdar City and Sheikh Zayed National Museum in the offing.
Business partnerships are good for the UK and good for the UAE and, in this way, Britain is ultimately contributing to the future of this great nation.
But expertise and investment do not just flow one way. DP World’s investment in the London Gateway is the single largest private infrastructure investment into the UK, at £1.5bn ($2.4bn). The project is a marriage of UAE and UK innovation and investment which will transform the competitiveness of UK freight services.
Likewise, Emirati investment into Manchester City football team and Virgin Galactic are examples of partnerships on British soil.
You should never take old friends for granted; and we don’t. That’s why our new prime minister, David Cameron, made the UAE one of his first overseas engagements. He said: “Our shared history is significant. But our common future is even more important.” As part of this common future, I want people in the street and people in the Majlis to say that the UK is the place they want to study, to work and to do business with.
Her Majesty The Queen’s state visit is a chance to reflect on the past 31 years since her last, but it is also an opportunity to look forward. I believe the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates are indeed united