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UK represents Israel's third largest export market and more, says Middle East think-tank

January 21, 2020 at 1:46 pm

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at No. 10 Downing Street, in London, UK on 5 September 2019 [Kate Green/Anadolu Agency]

A new strategic relationship is being fostered between the UK and Israel following increasing bilateral trade and deepening ties in various sectors, according to a new report by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM).

Published on its site today, the report entitled Britain and Israel: The new strategic partnership, says that since June 2016, 65 Israeli companies have set up or expanded their activity in the UK, creating 1,500 jobs. Israeli funds and institutional investors have invested more than £500 million ($653.6 million) in the UK.

“The large Conservative victory in the December 2019 election, combined with Britain’s departure from the EU, could serve to deepen and enhance the Britain-Israel security partnership as Britain seeks to redefine its foreign policy and security strategy while strengthening relations with allies outside of Europe,” said BICOM.

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Bilateral trade in areas such as defence, science, tech, business and cybersecurity has increased by 72 per cent from $6.1 billion in 2012 to $10.5 billion in 2018, resulting in the UK currently representing Israel’s third largest export market, just behind the United States and China.

Last year Britain agreed “in principle” to make its first post-Brexit free trade deal with Israel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, after pressure mounted on the UK government to not leave the EU without a deal with Europe.

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In addition, government-to-government cooperation in cybersecurity has remained strong. The report cites one senior UK official describing cybersecurity collaboration as a “first-order partnership.”

“In just a few years Britain-Israel relations have been transformed,” said BICOM CEO James Sorene. “Bilateral trade is booming with an increase of 72 per cent in six years. But beneath the stats there is evidence of extensive collaboration in cybersecurity, fintech and healthcare.”

Beyond expanding commercial ties, Israel is estimated to be Britain’s third largest arms supplier, with recent acquisitions focusing on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), anti-tank guided missiles, fighter jet targeting systems and flight training systems, reported the Jerusalem Post.

The arrival of Prince Charles in Israel later this week to participate in the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem on Thursday, “highlights the depth of our connection,” said UK Ambassador to Israel, Neil Wigan.

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He adds: “I have seen the vast potential for UK-Israeli collaborations. Our two countries complement each other’s strengths. There is potential to do even more, including after Brexit. Trade is already over $10 billion, and the UK is Israel’s biggest trade partner in Europe. High tech collaboration is thriving, to the benefit of both sides.”

The UK’s deepening trade with Israel and long history of helping Israel to develop nuclear weapons is a deep concern due to the continued violations by the Israeli government against Palestinians as it conducts air strikes in Gaza, causing civilian deaths and destruction of infrastructure.