Brexit and its effects on British leadership in the Middle East

Brexit and its effects on British leadership in the Middle East

Brexit will not only affect British foreign policy with the EU but also with other world regions such as the Middle East.

As Chris Doyle comments on in his article “Will there be a British Middle East Policy after Brexit?”, published by the Al-Sharq Forum, the British exit from the EU in the referendum provoked the biggest foreign policy crisis in the United Kingdom since the last of its colonies. London will have to reshape its relationships with its international partners and allies, especially with EU countries.

The Middle East is one of those regions. The United Kingdom has played a significant geopolitical role in this zone since a century ago and this is now threatened by the Brexit. How the disconnection with Brussels and the actions, which from now on will be initiated in the European Union and the United States, will determine the future of the British leadership role in this region.

The loss of the United Kingdom’s relevance in the Middle East started in 2003 with the Iraq War when London stood out above the majority of its European partners and supported the country’s invasion by the United States.

The reliance on the energy sources (like oil) from the Gulf countries are also conditioning its relatively strong position in the region. Besides, its international relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are pivoting.

However, it does not seem to change its policy with regard to Israel, which probably will keep being up to now, (because of the contrary, it would lose the access to high technology), meaning that the Palestinian conflict will keep stagnated.

The fight against the so-called Islamic State’s (ISIS) terrorism is the most important non-EU British foreign policy issue and there are no big differences to be expected with its traditional partners.

Both sides are those that will hold on the United Kingdom as the important actor in the Middle East despite Brexit. London should avoid getting internationally isolated, especially in a context in which geopolitics is developed in the bloc of States.

For that purpose, London might make a titanic diplomacy effort and negotiate numerous international treaties and bilateral agreements with its current partners due to Brexit. It has been calculated that, at least, around 50 new agreements should have being negotiated with its European partners in order to replace those which are still linking it to the European Union.

It is true that London is not starting from the scratch. Being a permanent member of the UN’s Security Council, a G-7’s and G-20’s member as well as from the NATO and the Commonwealth is giving it a certain bargaining strength from the start.

The Brexit has displaced one of the involved actors in the Middle East, the United Kingdom, but it has not changed the geopolitical key of the region: trade. A factor that London must bear in mind to reshape its presence in this zone.

At Del Canto Chambers we analyzed the international problems related to the United Kingdom and the Middle East. We can be contacted at

Del Canto Chambers’ Editorial Board

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