This week the Ministry of Justice embarks on an overseas trade mission to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to showcase UK legal services in the Middle East.

Antonia Romeo

Antonia Romeo

The trip is led by Justice Lords Minister David Wolfson QC, who, as a former barrister, is experienced in law and international arbitration, with knowledge of the region. He is accompanied by 28 leading legal professionals – including the president of the Law Society and the chair of the Bar Council.

Legal services are a major contributor to the UK economy with £22bn gross value added each year. It is also a strong UK export, demonstrated by a trade surplus of almost £6bn – a figure that has doubled in the past ten years.

A driver of the sector’s success is its inherently international outlook. This legal services trade mission is designed to strengthen further that cooperation with sectors abroad.

The centrepiece of the mission will showcase UK excellence at the Dubai World Expo, the UK’s participation at which has been led by the Department for International Trade. Our team at the Ministry of Justice has developed a brilliant programme at the UK Pavilion underlining how our legal services sector lies at the forefront of innovation and sustainability. This will be supplemented by networking opportunities and business roundtables.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), of which the UAE is a member, is a strong trading partner of the UK. Last year alone bilateral trade between the UK and the GCC amounted to £30 billion, £284 million of which was in legal services.

As with any engagement with partners abroad it is crucial that the breadth of the sector is represented. That is why the delegation includes a diverse range of sector professionals – from highly experienced managing partners and prominent QCs to lawtech start-ups – to make connections with their Middle Eastern counterparts.

I would like to extend my gratitude to the Bar Council and Law Society of England and Wales for their contribution in developing a captivating programme of events throughout the week. 

What makes this mission even more timely is that the government is pursuing an ambitious free-trade agreement between the UK and the GCC next year.

If you have an interest in doing business in the Gulf you can respond to the UK-GCC Free Trade Agreement consultation, which was launched by the Department for International Trade in October. The consultation closes on 14 January.


Antonia Romeo, Ministry of Justice permanent secretary