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Philip Hammond in trade mission to the Gulf to forge post-Brexit relations

Philip Hammond has embarked on a two-day New Year tour of the Gulf in a bid to strengthen economic relations with the UK's allies in the region ahead of Brexit.

The Chancellor is due to visit Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to provide reassurance that the Government is committed to forging improved trade links and greater economic cooperation.

Mr Hammond is expected to emphasise the importance of expanding existing economic relationships as the Government prepares to trigger Article 50 before the end of March, kick starting formal divorce negotiations with Brussels.

The Chancellor arrived in Kuwait on Wednesday morning for the first stop on his tour and he is due to meet the country's senior political leaders as well as the Kuwait Investment Authority.

Speaking after arriving in the Gulf, Mr Hammond said: "As we leave the EU, Britain's future prosperity requires us to maintain the strongest possible economic links with our European neighbours, while enhancing our existing partnerships with the wider world.

"There is huge potential to expand our economic and investment relationships with our Gulf allies in the future and in the last few weeks we've seen a number of significant investments into the UK which are a real vote of confidence that together we can seize the opportunities that lie ahead."

Mr Hammond will travel from Kuwait to the UAE for talks with Abu Dhabi's largest sovereign wealth funds and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company before travelling to Qatar for the final stop on his tour.

There he will hold talks with the nation's finance minister, the governor of Qatar Central Bank and investors.

Mr Hammond's New Year tour of the Gulf comes one month after the Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson undertook visits to the region.

The Chancellor's trip is part of a series of international visits by senior ministers designed to show the world the UK is committed to improving economic ties with countries across the globe ahead of Brexit.

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