An Interview With H. E. Simon Martin CMG, Ambassador (Great Britain)

On the special occasion of Bahrain’s National Day, Gulf Insider takes a closer look at relationships between Bahrain and some of its major trading partners.

What are your country’s main trading activities with Bahrain?

The UK and Bahrain continue to have a close and important relationship which has flourished for more than 200 years. Relations are based on a number of pillars – Defence; we saw the opening of the UK Naval Support Facility in April 2018 which is our first permanent military presence east of Suez since 1971. Security: we continue to work with Bahrain, sharing concerns about regional issues and providing technical assistance to Bahrain’s reform agenda. Trade and Investment; this continues to be a positive story with over 180 registered British branch companies in Bahrain and over 700 British companies represented or active in the market through partnerships or agents, across a wide range of sectors, including construction, financial and professional services, aviation, engineering, education, marketing, retail and pharmaceuticals. In 2017, total trade in goods and services between the UK and Bahrain was £934m, a 27.8% increase from 2016.

Is there anything that makes your country’s relationship with Bahrain special?

There is a warm familiarity between the UK and Bahrain that is rarely matched elsewhere. Most of the British nationals I meet in Bahrain have experience in other parts of the region. They say that Bahrain is the place where they are made to feel most welcome. And for many Bahrainis, London remains a ‘home from home’. Many Bahrainis study in the UK, work in the UK, own property and businesses there, they holiday there, and they watch football there. And relations between the British and Bahraini royal families are very close.

Any interesting news, recent or historical, about your country’s relations with Bahrain?

Britain was instrumental in helping to establish the first public school in the Gulf in Bahrain in 1919. Today there are numerous schools in Bahrain teaching the British curriculum. In business, many familiar British brands are to be seen in Bahrain, but today’s trade and investment relationship is a balanced one – for example, McLaren, the Formula One and performance car icon, is majority owned by Mumtalakat. Aviation is another Bahrain-Britain field of collaboration: the first British Airways commercial Concorde flight was from London to Bahrain; Gulf Air’s new Dreamliners are powered by Rolls Royce engines, and all new Bahrain Airforce pilots train on Hawk jet trainers.

Any short message for our readers on Bahrain’s National Day?

As the Kingdom of Bahrain marks 47 years of independence, it is rightly proud of its achievements during this time, particularly under the leadership of His Majesty, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The UK is proud of its close relationship with Bahrain and its people. I wish all Bahrainis a Happy National Day!

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