UAE Lobbying in British Politics: Leo Docherty’s Involvement

Leo Docherty is a British politician who has acted as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Europe since September 2022.  He functioned as Minister of State for Europe from September to October 2022. He also served as Vice Chair and Secretary of the UAE All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).  A group of broadly pro-UAE MPs in the UK created APPG to ‘promote good relations’ between the two countries. 

Docherty has also served as director of the Conservative Middle East Council. It has been reported that CMEC has lobbied in the EU on behalf of the UAE. Based on Docherty’s activities, he is a pro-UAE politician.

It has been revealed that The UAE government aimed to influence British politicians, including Leo Docherty, in a way that the defendant feared might result in the British public being misled about critical international issues. Leo Docherty has received over £30,000 in hospitality from countries, including the UAE, since 2017. 

Docherty also accepted £10,000 from David Rowland to help with his election in 2017 to parliament. David Rowland is a property dealer and donor to the Pro-UAE group CMEC and has also given £465,000 to the group. Further, Rowland has associated with a banking initiative with Abu Dhabi’s state-owned investment behemoth Mubadala and is close to the Abu Dhabi crown prince MbZ.

An APPG panel of MPs visited the UAE in February 2018. Leo Docherty, vice chair of the group, stated that the group ‘has been pleased to see the peace and prosperity of the UAE, a country which we consider a critically important partner in pursuing peace and prosperity in the region.’ There was no public mention of the UAE’s war crimes in Yemen, which has destabilised the region, flashed a humanitarian catastrophe, placed 8.4 million people on the brink of famine and been widely criticised for human rights abuses.

While Docherty conducted CMEC’s operations for years before being made an MP, there is proof that the UAE courted him as a partner. In Dec.2012, Docherty visited the UAE and wrote a sycophantic brochure about the country for CMEC, which would likely have been allocated to Tory MPs the following month. Dated Jan.2013 and entitled: ‘CMEC Director’s note: the United Arab Emirates’, it throws suspicion on Qatar’s ‘provision of haven to Islamist leaders’ and honours the UAE as ‘foremost among the UK’s partners in the region’. 

Docherty also warned of tensions in the UK-UAE relationship in 2012, telling Tory MPs: ‘The view of the UAE is that the UK is too relaxed about the threat posed to the stability of the region by the Muslim Brotherhood generally and Islamist groups such as Al Islah in the UAE specifically.’ These developments and the stance of Docherty align with the interests of UAE’s foreign policy.

Moreover, In praise of the UAE, Docherty wrote: “The upcoming trial of 7 jailed Al Islah members (arrested with endangering the security of the state) will likely be a prospect not only for the transparency and due procedure of UAE judiciary to be tested.” On the other hand, Rights groups criticised the trials of Islah members for not being free and fair. It is widely acknowledged that political prisoners do not get appropriate trials in the Gulf, let alone in the UAE. 

Furthermore, Docherty contended: “I am proud of my long-standing connection with the UAE, a critically important ally for the UK and a model of good governance, dynamism and innovation. It’s ridiculous to suggest this remarkable country has a poor record of human rights; the opposite is true, and the way all faiths live in peace, Muslims, Christians and Hindus, is a testament to that.”

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