Britain’s Middle East trade holds up despite strong pound

UK exports to the Middle East exceeded £18bn last year despite the strong pound and falling oil prices leading to fears of weakened demand in the region.

Yet according to data from HM Revenue & Customs, total UK exports to the region were only slightly lower than the previous year, when prices of crude were stable at US$80 a barrel.

Crude oil prices fell by 50 percent since June and a barrel is currently priced at US$60.

Fears that falling oil prices would force high-spending governments in the Middle East to cut budgets created a climate of low business confidence in the region last year and many British businesses exporting to the region did in fact endure a tough year. BAE Systems failed to land a deal with the United Arab Emirates to supply Typhoon fighter jets, and a major oil concession held by BP and Royal Dutch Shell in Abu Dhabi expired.

Yet according to the new data by HMRC, Qatar and Egypt proved to be leading markets for British companies, and each saw British trade up more than 10 percent on the previous year.

British companies exported £96.6m worth of goods and services to the Islamic republic last year, representing an increase of 17.5 percent from 2013.