Brexit! What leaving the EU means for Dubai Brits


- Hisham Wyne

Brexit is taking up all the headlines. But what does it mean for Dubai, and Brits in the sandlands? Fret not - these 7 quick points have you covered.

Politics, aside, what does Great Britain pulling the skirts in mean for folks expatriated to the sandlands of Dubai and the Middle East? I’ve been doing PR statements for clients all day, and getting a few quotes in from those in the know. Plenty of anecdotal data, and the BBC broadcast has been very helpful too. Bottom Brexit line: all ideological schisms aside, there are a few rather clear trends in the works. Here are 7 key ones:

1. Money going out from the UAE: Across the board, there’s been a transfer from the UAE to the UK as the GBP plummets lows unexplored in a few decades. Happy sand-inclined Brits are getting the best deals on their pence since the UK’s “independence”. Overnight, as Brexit took the lead, 4 dirhams and ninety fils would buy you a pound. Cue many people sending dirhams over. Come morning in Dubai, the GBP was at 5.08 dirhams.

It wasn’t because people suddenly trusted Boris Johnson’s fantastical plans. It was more because opportunistic folks (like me) were transferring a couple of thousand over in the hope of making loose change to buy another pint at happy hour.

2. Money coming in to the UAE: Well, there wasn’t much to begin with from the UK, was there? GCC countries are net exporters of capital because of the expats they house. Not many seaside shillings making their way to support people here, so Brexit changes not very much.

3. Brits being paid: Most people are paid in AED, which means the UK mortgage becomes cheaper. Except if you work for a blue-chip multinational that insists on paying you in GBP. (I’ve seen examples on FB, where people have taken involuntary salary haircuts for reasons they can’t control.) Largely though, the Brexit impact on salaries is minimal in the grand UAE scheme of things.

4. Holidaymakers: Now this is an obvious one. See the GBP dive down to the Mariana Trench to say hi to the denizens of the deep? That’s going to hit the Hawaiian-shirt clad Brits coming to Dubai – which could have repercussions for Dubai’s hospitality economy – and by extension the rest of us.

On the other hand, if the rest of Europe is no longer that enticing, and you have to stand in the “Others” queue at passport control, might as well take the trouble to come over here and experience sun, sand and genuine 5-star hospitality for your Brexit pence.

Generally, you could rely on the general population of Great Britain to DO THE RIGHT THING when called upon. That moral high ground is no longer there.

5. Real estate in the UAE: Demand is local. Not many buy-to-park UK investors here. Most Brits buying real estate here live here and are paid in dirhams pegged to the Uncle Sam dollar. So nothing much is going to change in that respect – unless people divert money to take advantage of a tanking London housing market post Brexit.

6. Long-term job prospects: K, this is where I shoot from the hip. See, the Brits have been massively influential in shaping this region. Their navy blasted away pirates and cleared trade routes some 400 years before the UAE was a gleam in Baba Zayed’s eye. They were there in the ’60s when oil was found and concessions given out.

So, this has always led – at least till a few years ago –to a belief that having a Brit in a job was a GOOD THING. And there was a certain salary premium that came with that cachet. Political commentator and UAE national Sultan Saood Al Qassemi has called it the “Khawaja Complex” where Arabs are a bit appreciative of the white man (or woman?)

But when it came to Brits, I believe it went a bit deeper than that. You could say it ways a special relationship. For you felt that while you had individual examples of nonsense – like gulping down 13 pints and then dry humping a tree or experimenting with taking the knickers off their fellow man (or woman) in public – those examples were few and far between. Generally, you could rely on the general population of Great Britain to DO THE RIGHT THING when called upon.

Well, I’ve just taken informal polls over 24 hours, but it’s amazing how sentiments change overnight, eh? Now the word on the street is that the Brits are just like other strife-ridden folks who patently aren’t above whistling for the chopper to come have a go at their nose even if the face suffers. That special moral cachet afforded to the Brits might not be there anymore – which means there could be an ever so slight rejigging of social hierarchies and pay scales.

7. People coming in to find jobs: I suspect there might be a bit more of that. UAE local paper The National has spent a week doing lunch specials on an exodus of expatriates. But if you’re making plans to go, Brexit will probably make you reconsider. And if the UK economy jams as rather badly as many suspect it will, many will look to sunnier climes.

There’s a certain irony about immigrants emigrating away from immigration worries, but I’m not sure Brits will get that. So join the club, and come over so I can roll my eyes at you and honk my horn impatiently, ye bloody immigrants.