Brexit: Shock, surprise among British expats in UAE

Brexit: Shock, surprise among British expats in UAE
(L-R) Katie Daniels, Robert John Tasker, Sharan Sunner and Tom Wood

Dubai - Tom Wood, an Abu Dhabi-based engineer feels that the Leave campaign "was driven by the emotive stance that Britain is better off without the EU."

By Bernd Debusmann Jr and Sarakshi Rai

Published: Fri 24 Jun 2016, 11:34 AM

Last updated: Fri 24 Jun 2016, 5:32 PM

British expats in Dubai and across the UAE reacted with surprise - and in some cases dismay -  to the announcement that a majority of British voters opted in favour of exiting the European Union during the UK's historic referendum. 
Dubai resident Robert John Tasker, Vice-Chairman of Vote Leave UAE Branch, flew back to London specifically to campaign on behalf of the leave side. Speaking to Khaleej Times from Trafalgar Square - where celebrations were already underway on Friday morning at 7 AM - Tasker said that "he was speechless." 
"I couldn't really comprehend the fact that we did it, but we did it. We've done it," he said. "I'm so elated by it. It looked like there was a turning point in the evening, where the Remain side had gotten in the lead. But it's like a game of poker. They played all their cards at once." 
Additionally, Tasker said he was particularly excited at the prospect that the referendum results will allow the UK to negotiate a free-trade agreement with India. 
"I relish the opportunity that the UK now has finally the chance to work out a bilateral, free-trade agreement with India without the intervention of the EU," he said. "For me to say that, it's just incredible that Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Cameron - should he remain the Prime Minister - can now begin negotiations on what could become the world's most historic bilateral free-trade agreement. 
Other expats, however, expressed shock and disappointment at the results. 
"Not only am I devastated, I am ashamed," said PR professional Sarah Jaimie Hay. "I am ashamed about what this says to the world. At a time of increasing global unrest, we are sending out a heartbreaking message: that we don't care." 
"I hope the world can accept a heartfelt apology from the many millions of us who voted Remain," she added. 
Tom Wood, an Abu Dhabi-based engineer, told Khaleej Times that he fully supports Britain's democratic system, but feels that the Leave campaign "was driven by the emotive stance that Britain is better off without the EU." 
"I only wish more people would have voted with their head and not their hearts," he said. 
Katie Daniels, a Dubai account manager, said that she believed the vote was the result of "misdirected anger about a lot of issues, rather than an informed assessment of the EU." 
"I'm do disappointed in Britain today. I've always been proud of what I thought Britain stood for: tolerance and inclusivity. I feel as though that belief has been shattered now and I'm seeing a country I can't identify with," she added.
"This is sound bite politics," she said. "People who suffered in the last recession have been offered a scapegoat and they took it." 
Similarly, another Dubai resident, Sharan Sunner - a Briton of Indian ancestry - said that "her heart goes out to all those people living in the UK who now feel they don't have a home." 
"As someone of an ethnic minority born and bred in the UK, we have felt misdirected anger and demonised in the UK for a while," she said. "The fact that a majority of people in the UK side with Nigel Farage feels like the nail in the coffin."
Sunner also said she believes that the British media "has a lot to answer for" in the aftermath of Brexit. 
"With issues like this, the International Press Standards Authority needs to monitor reporting, and there needs to be heavy repercussions for media organisations who are reporting outright lies," she said. 

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