LONDON/BIRMINGHAM: March 28, 2017. A day before Britain confirmed its formal departure from the European Union, the country signed an MoU with Qatar to increase co-operation in education and healthcare, science, research and innovation, tourism and culture, transport, energy, financial services and the development of small businesses.
Qatar has already invested US$43-US$50 billion in the UK and according to the country's finance minister Ali Shareef al-Emadi, his government plans to invest a further US$6 billion in energy, infrastructure, real estate and services.
Public and private Qatari investors already have stakes in the International Airlines Group, Heathrow airport, Harrods department store, Sainsbury's supermarket chain, the landmark Shard building in Central London and the former Olympic Village in East London.
Speaking at the joint UK-Qatar Business and Investment Forum on March 28, Britain's prime minister Theresa May acknowledged the strength and seniority of the delegations from both countries "are a testament to the importance we both place on our bilateral relationship and the scale of our shared ambition to develop it".
As a precursor to her later Brexit announcement she added: "My plan for Britain is not just a plan to leave the EU, but a plan to build a stronger economy...and a critical part of this plan is developing a modern industrial strategy that can help secure my vision of a high-skilled, high-paid Britain.
"As a global Britain, I am determined that we will be the most committed and most passionate advocate of free trade in the world," she declared.
Shareef al-Emadi added he was confident the UK would have a "good future" outside the EU.
The inaugural Qatar-UK Forum provided government ministers and business leaders from both countries with the opportunity to promote investment and trade opportunities in the UK and showcase best practice and areas of opportunity in support of Qatar's 2030 National Vision.
Forum delegates included Qatar Airways' Group CEO Akbar Al Baker who acknowledged his airline's investment in IAG and the 70-plus weekly flights linking Qatar with Heathrow, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Manchester as part of encouraging trade between the two countries.
Also participating in the Forum was the revolutionary Dearman Engine that uses the expansion of liquid nitrogen to produce zero emission cold and power. Last year Sainsbury's became the first company in the world to trial a refrigerated truck cooled by Dearman's liquid nitrogen-powered engine that eliminates all related emissions.
Noting there are few countries that appreciate the value of cooling more than Qatar, Dearman said it is developing a suite of applications for the transport, energy, retailing and data sectors for possible use in the Gulf state.
(Pictured left to right: Liam Fox, UK Secretary of State for International Trade, and Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker at the UK-Qatar Business and Investment Forum)