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Friday, December 3, 2021

Surprise, despair and joy in Qatar as UK votes to leave the EU


The UK has voted to leave the European Union
The UK has voted to leave the European Union

A historic vote in the UK to exit the European Union has prompted a flurry of reactions in Qatar, including disbelief and despair, but also joy and cautious optimism.

So far, the uncertainty caused by the Brexit referendum results (52% voted to leave, while 48% voted to stay) has spurred a dramatic slide in the value of sterling, and caused financial markets around the world to tumble.

It’s also caused a leadership shakeup, with Prime Minister David Cameron, who campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, announcing his plans to resign.

While those who voted to leave are celebrating, people in the remain camp have criticized the decision, fearing it will damage the UK’s economy.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Though an actual Brexit would take at least two years, the vote already has far-reaching implications for residents abroad, including those living in Qatar.

Additionally, those with investments in the UK will be watching closely to see what happens.

Expat reaction

An estimated 25,000 British people live in Qatar. Many of these expats voted in the EU referendum, and they have been sharing their feelings about the result on Twitter today.

Some, like Graham Davis and Adam Kynnersley, were unhappy about the vote, but pointed out that as expats, the slump in sterling gives them more purchasing power back home:

Others noted there was a huge disparity in how old and young people voted in the referendum.

Some 64 percent of voters aged 18-24 years old wanted to remain, while only 33 percent of those aged 65 years and over voted that way.


Meanwhile, leave supporters like Pip said they were pleased with the decision:

Qatar residents react

Qatar has strong ties to the UK, and many residents here of all nationalities have been sharing their thoughts on the vote.

Because the value of the pound plummeted overnight, £1 is now equal to QR5 – prompting some to remark that it’s time to go shopping in London, for both goods and real estate:

Meanwhile, Australian expat Rachel Morris said she was in shock:

And for his part, French expat Mazen Abd Rabbo said he felt the UK would come to rue its decision.

Impact on Qatar

At this stage, it is difficult to know how Britain’s exit from the EU will play out in the long term.

In Qatar, the vote could affect aviation deals, diplomacy, trade issues and investments in the UK.

Harrods in Qatar
Harrods in Qatar

In recent years, Qatar has been buying up UK real estate and companies such as luxury retailer Harrods and the supermarket chain Sainsbury’s.

Thus, the UK’s economy post-Brexit will significantly affect the Gulf country’s portfolio, for better or for worse.

For his part, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, says that the UK has “extensive contingency plans” in place, and that its financial system is “well-capitalised, liquid and strong.”

What is certain for now however is that sterling is weak, and this will have an immediate effect on Qatar residents:

  • It will now be cheaper to spend a holiday in the UK, as the exchange rate is favorable;
  • UK expats who are paid in riyals have more purchasing power, and the same can be said for anyone wishing to buy UK assets; and
  • The stock market slide is bad news for anyone who holds shares –including pensions – in the UK.

How do you feel about the vote? Thoughts?

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