Theresa May is hoping to boost post-Brexit trade ties with Gulf countries during a visit to Bahrain this week.

The prime minister is attending the Gulf Co-operation Council summit, where she will sound out the possibility of new free trade agreements with Gulf states for once the UK has left the EU.

The Government says it has identified £30 billion of high-value opportunities for British businesses across 15 sectors over the next five years.

Mrs May is only the third Western leader, and first woman, to be invited to the summit.

Before leaving for the visit, she said the controversial human rights record of Gulf states should not be a bar to increased post-Brexit trade with them.

Her hosts were criticised for the way they suppressed protests during the Arab Spring, but Mrs May insisted closer ties will allow the UK greater influence in pushing its values.

Bahrain was criticised for how protests were supressed during the Arab Spring. Credit: PA

Speaking ahead of the visit, the prime minister said: "The Gulf is already our largest investor and our second biggest non-European export market and I think there is huge potential to expand this relationship in the years ahead.

"Across these six countries there are exciting opportunities for British business, from energy to education, infrastructure to healthcare and here in the UK, investment from the Gulf is helping to regenerate cities from Aberdeen to Teesside, Manchester to London.

"As the UK leaves the EU, we should seize the opportunity to forge a new trade arrangement between the UK and the Gulf. This could transform the way we do business and lock in a new level of prosperity for our people for generations to come."

Downing Street is using the two-day trip, starting on Monday, to announce a new five-year multiple entry visa for British businesses visiting Saudi Arabia, British participation in Expo 2020 in Dubai, and a joint working group to thrash out post-Brexit trade deals.

Mrs May will attend a dinner with the six leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman on Tuesday, before addressing the plenary session of the summit on Wednesday.