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  • Writer's pictureDetained in Dubai

Qatar threatens potential withdrawal of investment from UK

This is a threat to British citizens and to national security.

If there was ever any doubt that Gulf investors in Europe view their capital as ‘hush money’, this should make it clear,” says Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Doha and Due Process International regarding Qatar’s announcement that all current and future investment in the UK will be under review following a ban on tourism advertising on the London Underground.

Transport for London (TfL) recently rejected allowing ads promoting Qatar as a tourist destination that were to appear on the city’s trains, citing the Gulf State’s repressive anti-LGBT laws. “The TfL does not wish to promote tourism to countries that criminalise people’s sexuality or are otherwise oppressive and unsafe,” Stirling explained, “But Qatar believes that their money should not only silence Western criticism, it should compel our praise, and they should be allowed to advertise to the British public without restriction.

“We have been warning for years that Gulf investment in the UK and Europe is used as leverage by countries like the UAE and Qatar to commit human rights abuses with impunity; that they view their investments as strategic bribes to mute criticism and resist reforms. Now Qatar’s response to the advertising ban is to threaten the withdrawal of its $40 billion investments in the UK, and to potentially suspend future investments; meaning, they have tied their business deals in Britain to our political and moral acquiescence.”

Currently, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund holds significant assets in the UK, including the luxury store Harrods, the Shard skyscraper and Canary Wharf. Doha also owns Chelsea Barracks, the Savoy and Grosvenor House hotels, 22 percent of Sainsbury’s supermarkets, six percent of Barclays bank, and holds a 20 percent stake in Heathrow airport. Additionally, Qatar has pledged to inject another $10 billion into a variety of sectors in the UK over the next 5 years. The number of properties owned by Qatari individuals in London climbed by nearly 50 percent between 2018 and 2021.

Qatar, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia are among the UK’s biggest investors,” Stirling said, “They seized upon the economic uncertainties following Brexit and the pandemic, believing Britain to be vulnerable, and they are using their investments as instruments of coercion and compliance. When they buy property or fund projects in the UK and Europe, they believe it should buy them the silence and capitulation of our governments with regards to their oppressive regimes. Qatar apparently believes that they have bought the right to dictate the policies of the TfL; what’s next? Will Doha and Dubai start telling the FCDO what to say in their travel advisories? The Gulf views their investments as having expansive social, cultural, and political ramifications – it is not simply business for them; they think it endows them with extralegal rights and privileges; and if they discover it does not, they will withdraw. The UK government and the British business community need to reassess the sustainability of Gulf investments when they come with such presumptive conditions.”


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Lula Strong
Lula Strong

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