Vote takes UAE residents by surprise

A combination of disappointment and delight was the response in the UAE to Britain’s vote to leave the 28-member European Union.

The vote also received a response from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.

“As the British people votes to leave Europe, we respect their choice and remain committed to our long and close partnership with the UK,” he tweeted.

While some Britons were anxious about their home country’s future, others were confident it would do the UK good in the long run.

“My worries are for my children and the younger generation, the majority of whom voted to remain. They will lose the opportunities that being part of the EU entailed, for example, the chance to work and study in 27 countries will no longer be available,” said Ben McBride, managing director of Soccerkids Dubai.

The vote by 51.9 per cent to sever membership to the EU triggered financial turmoil across the globe.

The sharp drop of the pound to a 31-year low would benefit British expatriates globally but the price of commodities and services within the UK would rise, said Sudhir Kumar Shetty, president of the UAE Exchange Centre, which operates 800 offices across 31 countries.

The vote would have negative repercussions, he said.

“If you look at the economics, it’s not a wise decision to exit as it will have an adverse effect on the UK and the entire Euro zone,” said Mr Shetty, who pointed out that doing business without restrictive tariffs with 28 EU member countries was a thing of the past for the UK.

“Now every import into the Euro zone will become more expensive for the UK. Inflation will rise and so will the cost of living.”

However, the UAE would benefit from a weak pound, he said. “All imports coming to the UAE from the UK and Euro zone will cost less because the dirham is pegged to dollar so naturally when the sterling and euro go down, we in the UAE benefit,” he said. Others saw it as an opportunity for the UK to negotiate its own terms.

“The voters have sent a message that we want to take the control back,” said Pip Hoe, an Al Ain resident.

“I live in rural England where the transport network is terrible and we once had the best health services in the world but now this has all gone down. London voted to remain but other areas of the UK were forgotten about in respect to infrastructure, transport and health and education. I think it is a clear signal from those (people) who have not been happy for a long time.”

This view was backed by Lee Cordes, a British academic coordinator who has lived in RAK for four years.

“It will give people of England an opportunity to go back and negotiate terms in conditions for trade, finance, economy,” he said. The resignation announcement of Prime Minister David Cameron was inevitable, he said.

“He fought for England to remain in EU, so there is nothing else he can do. He can not stay as prime minister and run a country that voted for something he did not believe in.”

The general belief was that the ‘leave’ vote was fuelled by apprehension about migration and poor health, education and transportation services for citizens.

The vote has made some former UAE residents who went back to the UK plan to return to the Emirates.

“Economically it is a complete disaster. Socially it is frightening,” said Carmella Watson, a teacher who lived in the UAE for two years before moving back to London.

“I am saddened because for many ‘leave’ voters, the issue came down to race. I think that Britain will have huge consequences to face and it will be a very difficult time. I feel that this decision has been more divisive than anything and that we were stronger in Europe.”

She worried about the rise of nationalist rhetoric to dangerous levels and about losing skilled foreign workers in Britain.

“I am worried that Britain has chosen isolationism over independence and that will be ostracised from trade agreements and I am worried about the impending recession and house prices, interest rates, taxation and borrowing,” said the mother of two.

Author: Anwar Ahmad


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