One does not have to go all the way back to colonial times or refer to the end of the First World War to understand how complicated, yet deeply interwoven, the relationship between the UK and the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region has always been.

In fact, one of the main concerns of the pro-Brexit community was the inflow of refugees from Syria. It follows that Brexit will have an impact on the MEA region and, as usual, there are three different groups discussing this matter: optimists, pessimists and realists.

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The optimists, such as the Iranians and some of the Gulf Co-operation Council countries, are happy about the cheaper imports, falling real estate prices in London and a little more openness in the UK’s foreign policy toward the MEA.

The pessimists are worried about the destabilising effect Brexit might have on the EU, which is one of the most important economic and political partners of the MEA region. Welfare organisations are concerned that the UK, as the second largest donor of development funds, might decide to cut its activities in this field and concentrate more on its internal issues. Some warn of the shift to the right within the UK and other European societies, which in some places have demonstrated patterns of xenophobic and Islamophobic behaviour and could lead to tensions toward Middle Easterners living in UK and as well as longer term complications in the Middle East.

Finally, there are realists, who put Brexit in a broader context with the developments happening in other countries such as the US. It is certain that after Brexit, the UK has to re-define its relationship not only towards the EU but also toward all other regions and countries, including the Middle East and Africa. It is also certain that without the 'bureaucratic monster', as many refer to the EU, the UK will solely concentrate on its own needs and benefits.

With the conservative US presidential candidate Donald Trump officially putting 'America First' as his slogan for the upcoming elections, we may have two major countries that will quite aggressively pursue their national interest globally. What this has meant for the MEA region in the past and what it could potentially mean for its future I will leave to your imagination. 

Mazdak Rafaty is managing partner of Ludwar International Consultancy and SME adviser to the joint Emirati-German Chamber of Commerce. Email: m.rafaty@lic-consulting.com