UK and Turkey 'very close' to trade deal - but what about Brexit and NI?

  • Photo: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in London last week (c) Fatih Aktaş - Anadolu Agency )

    Turkey and the UK are “very close” to signing a post-Brexit free trade agreement, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as reported by the Financial Times.

    Cavusoglu visited London last week to speak with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on the matter.

    He said: “If you look at the volume of our bilateral trade, 95% of it is industrial products, and we agreed on that . . . and 5% is agriculture and services.”

    He also expressed a wish to increase the volume of bilateral trade, setting a $20bn post-Brexit target.

    After Germany, the UK is Turkey’s second largest trading partner with a trade volume of £18.8bn ($23.7 billion).

    More than 2,500 UK companies currently operate in Turkey, including BP, Shell, Vodafone, Unilever, BAE Systems, HSBC, Aviva, and Diageo.

    However, Turkey is in a customs union with the EU, so a deal with the UK couldn't be implemented until the UK has secured an agreement with the EU, which may have significant future relevance for Northern Ireland exporters of goods and services.

    Back in January, Northern Irish business leaders met with local politicans to discuss amendments to Brexit legislation that could be worth up to £100m in compensation for local businesses.

    However, with the Covid-19 disrupting normal life globally as we know it, it is uncertain whether such compensations could still go ahead, with the negative financial implications of lockdown bearing even larger negativities. 

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    Sinn Fein has accused the UK government of “playing reckless games” over Brexit following a report by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee which concluded that the government’s approach to post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland has left businesses in the dark.

    A UK government spokeswoman responded: “We are engaging intensively with businesses and the Executive in Northern Ireland and will set out further guidance later this month.”

    A group of MPs has additionally questioned if the government can meet its promise of "unfettered" trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, which will apparently need a concession from the EU that it has not yet granted.

    BBC News NI reported that this means Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU customs rules, even though it remains part of UK customs territory.

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    Turkey and the UK’s trade talks have been sped up following Britain’s exit from the European Union at the end of last year and the UK is getting ready to sign trade deals with a few third-party countries straight after the exit transition period, which is unlikely to be extended beyond the end of this year.

    The Financial Times article said: “If the two sides are unable to secure a deal by the end of the year, Ankara (the capital of Turkey) could face a dilemma over whether to push ahead with the agreement with Britain and risk breaching EU rules. Mr Cavusoglu acknowledged that would be a ‘bizarre situation’, while adding that the UK was a ‘strategic ally’.”

    Cavusoglu added that Ankara is hoping to grant Turks special status in the UK when it implements new migration rules through negotiations.

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    He referred to a visa scheme pact for Turkish businesspeople which predates Britain joining the EU; “We have been negotiating two separate agreements, one is the FTA [free trade agreement], one is similar to the Ankara Agreement.”

    The Ankara Agreement is hoped to prevent Turkish citizens from getting caught in any possible Brexit fallout, according to the report.

    Cavusoglu apparently emphasised to Turkish reporters that “even if the UK departs from the EU, it will continue to be one of the most important parts of the European continent” and said that during the meeting with Raab and Johnson they also discussed cooperation in tourism, health tourism and the defence industry, as well as other international and regional issues, including Libya, Syria, and NATO.

    Sources: The Financial Times, BBC News NI, Belfast Telegraph, Anadolu Agency

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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