United Arab Emirates: Brexit, Market Access & The DIFC

Last Updated: 13 September 2018
Article by Michael Kortbawi

Michael Kortbawi and Tala Azar explain how the DIFC has emerged as a strong contender for insurance firms thinking about shifting headquarters.

Brexit was a decision that shook the financial world. On June 23rd 2016, a sliver of a majority voted for the United Kingdom to exit the European Union (EU). The schism caused consternation, and the possible impacts of such a move saw the GBP plummet 10% the day the news came to light.

Clarity has proved to be elusive since. It has neither been a hard Brexit nor a soft one, and most definitely not a red, white and blue one. It's been a protracted, hard fought affair marked with internal divisions within the UK before even approaching the EU negotiating table.

The extended nature of the exit negotiations have obscured the eventual shape a deal might take. And while some form of equivalence agreement might be reached on the trade of goods, global industry is bracing for barriers in the services market The lack of clarity, the possibility of services being disrupted, and the threat of firms not being able to source skilled human capital within the UK market, has led to many global insurance companies setting up contingency plans. Firms are eyeing financial hubs on the European mainland, and also looking further afield for domiciles in which to headquarter.

DIFC Gateway for Emerging Markets

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has emerged as an exceptionally strong contender for insurance firms thinking about shifting headquarters. The Dubai unique financial free zone operates on a common law legal structure tailored to the needs of financial services companies.

Add to the mix Dubai's strategic location – where 66% of the world's population falls within an eight hour flight - and the city's first-world infrastructure, and one has a winning proposition. DIFC has come into its own as a global financial centre that slots into the time zone gap between London, New York, Hong Kong and Tokyo – making it easy to do business around the world.

Dubai's easy labour laws and its open approach to the developed and developing world make it a crucial gateway for businesses seeking growth in new markets. Meanwhile, quality of life and other perks makes Dubai a destination of choice for global talent.

DIFC Legal Framework

DIFC also places firms right in the heart of the UAE, which is the region's largest insurance and reinsurance market. Blue-chip insurance firms, such as Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company and Llyod's of London, both have already gravitated to DIFC as their chosen Middle Eastern hub.

The financial free zone has the added benefit of being designed from the ground up to cater for financial service providers, with legal and regulatory structures designed to be intuitive, easy to access and aligned with other global capitals. Firms can provide insurance services by establishing a new limited company, or registering as a branch of a foreign entity. With 100% foreign ownership laws, and legal proceedings conduced entirely in English, DIFC is streets ahead of the competition as a destination that prioritises financial service delivery.

Then there are tax benefits to consider. Firms are free of income and corporate tax dues for the first 50 years of operations. There is free movement of capital with no repatriation taxes, and zero import and export duties.

The capital requirement varies depending on the activity and is determined by applying the higher of the (i) applicable Base Capital Requirement set out in the DFSA PIB Module, (ii) the Expenditure Based Capital Minimum set out in the DFSA PIB Module, or (iii) the Risk Capital Requirement set out in the DFSA PIB Module. The Base Capital Requirement for each activity is set out below:

PIN License

Captive Insurer/ Reinsurer (Class 1,2 and 3)

Insurance Intermediation

Insurance Management

US$ 10,000,000

US$ 150,000, US$ 250,000 to US$ 1,000,000

US$ 10,000 

US$ 10,000

 Not only is the DIFC a growth catalyst for established firms but also a powerful incubator for startups. Consider the firm's InsurTech programme that specialises in sparking technological solutions for insurance companies, or the Fintech Hive at DIFC – the region's very first financial technology accelerator.

Welcome to the new heart of the region's insurance and reinsurance industry. DIFC has come into its own as a destination par excellence for insurance providers focused on engaging with the world.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions