Arab perspectives on Brexit

Mixed reactions from the Arab world, with some commentators describing the vote as a “defeat” for Britain and Europe.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond attends a meeting with with Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Jeddah
Commentators in the Arab world reacted to the news of Britain leaving the EU [Reuters]

With politicians, commentators and business leaders around the globe still scrambling to assess the effect of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, there have been mixed reactions from the Arab world on the way their relations with Britain will be affected.

For some, Thursday’s vote could signal a shift in the EU’s foreign policy, including in the Middle East. 

“In theory, the UK’s influence on the EU policies vis-a-vis Arab issues such as Palestine, Syria and Iraq will end – which is not necessarily a bad thing to have,” Khaled al-Hroub, a senior research fellow at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge, told Al Jazeera.

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“The British used to pull the EU in the direction of more Americanised positions and politics. Relieving the EU from British pressure could be seen as a good sign that allows for more independent European standing on Arab affairs.”

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In a statement published on its Twitter page, Oman’s foreign ministry praised the “brave and historic decision to leave the EU, explained by some as a firm reaction to certain policies of the European Commission”.

The ministry also underlined “the historical relationship that brings both countries and peoples together, as well as the existing bilateral cooperation”. 

The Bahraini government said it honoured the decision of its “British ally”, and stressed its commitment to strengthen the 200-year-old-plus relationship between the two countries, as well as with the EU to “consolidate peace and security in the region”. 

‘Putin is happy today’

Many Arab commentators also took to social media to express their views on the outcome, with some calling it a “defeat” for the UK and Europe – and the beginning of an era of division within the continent.

Jordanian writer Yaser Zaatreh described the outcome of the vote as the beginning of Europe’s identity fragmentation.

“Europe was not supportive of our unification in order for us to be supportive of its unification. Europe expelled us and continues to, explicitly and implicitly, and the time for the explosion of identities will expel others as well,” he said. 

Al Jazeera talk show host Faisal al-Kasim highlighted the difference between the governments of Syria and the UK. 

“In Britain, when people said ‘No’, Cameron left immediately. In Syria, when people said ‘No’, it was the people who left and [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad stayed.”

Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist, columnist and author said: “Putin is happy today. He succeeded in breaking up the European Union with the refugee crisis he created in Syria.”

Finally, Kuwaiti journalist Mohammed al-Rumaihi suggested it was time for the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arabs to renegotiate their deals with London on a number of issues as one entity.

Source: Al Jazeera