Tony Blair’s Controversial Ties: UAE Payments, Lobbying, and Political Influence

Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair is a British politician who acted as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007. It has been revealed that Tony Blair was being paid millions by the UAE while also working as a Middle East envoy. The former prime minister’s Institute for Global Change has presented both paid and free guidance to the UAE. It illustrates that Tony Blair and his think tank paid to counsel governments with poor human rights. 

Tony Blair has attracted a storm of controversy for the work that he’s followed after departing Downing Street in 2007. His arguable roster of former clients, either via his charity, the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative or his ex-consultancy Tony Blair Associates have contained oil companies. More importantly, he has also been highly engaged with the UAE.

Controversially, Blair’s London office was being financed by millions by the UAE when he was UN Middle East envoy, The Daily Telegraph wrote that the envoy position was a favoured role he gained soon after stepping down as prime minister that granted him access to governments all around the world, ushering to accusations that he used public office for private gain.

For instance, Nick Banner, a top Foreign Office official who was Blair’s chief of staff as Quartet representative, allegedly undertook retail work connected to the former Labour leader’s, consultancy company, the Telegraph noted. Banner collaborated with Mubadala CEO Khaldoon Al Mubarak in the UAE a year after Blair left Number.

A year later, the former prime minister started paid advisory work for Mubadala, the UAE state-owned investment firm. Former P.M. Blair is also known to be near MbZ, also the chairman of Mubadala. Banner also organised talks between a Korean oil company UI Energy that Blair was being sponsered to advise and another Abu Dhabi-based investment company.

Recently, the Tony Blair Institute has worked with the UAE regarding COP28. A TBI spokesman stated: “Yes, we do work with the UAE and as is well known we have an office there.” Further stated, “On Cop28, TBI is dedicated to helping countries which are exposed and weak to adverse climate impacts to build a more resilient future and pursue net zero at an attainable pace. That is why we proposed strategic and policy insight [to] support Cop28, completely pro bono because we want to help guide meaningful change.”

Tony Blair also lobbied the UK government in a proposal to secure lucrative investment contracts for his company’s UAE paymasters. Britain seemed so hopeless for the UAE’s investment in 2013 that ministers set up a private Whitehall unit that led Abu Dhabi to permit big business deals and opportunities to donate to a top NHS institution. 

Directed by Paul Deighton, former commercial secretary to the Treasury, this 10-person crew of senior officials was called Project Falcon. In July 2013 Blair met with Deighton. Abu Dhabi United Group, which holds Manchester City Football Club, secured a £1 billion belongings deal in Manchester after the gathering.

Mubadala, Blair’s client at the time, stated in December 2014 that it would design a £175 million student village in Manchester, though it has since stretched out of the contract due to spiralling costs. However, Blair’s office did not answer a request for comment on this deal. 

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