Brexit: Turkey lost a good friend in the EU

Brexit: Turkey lost a good friend in the EU

As of today, the United Kingdom is no longer a member of the European Union. This very epic departure of the U.K. has closed a chapter in the history of European politics. How the next episode will be shaped will be seen over the years. During the transition period, British and EU negotiators will now have to discuss the specifics of the future London-Brussels relationship, particularly on trade.

Brexit will surely have political, economic and social impacts on both the U.K. and the EU as the Brits have become the first nation to quit the Brussels-based organization. Now with 27 members, the EU has turned into a more continental bloc under increased dominance of the French-German duo.

As can be recalled, the two European heavyweights have decided to upgrade the bilateral relations through the 2019-dated Treaty of Aachen. It stipulates further synchronization of the foreign and security policies of France and Germany in an effort to curb the influence and the role of the United States over European politics, especially on security issues. It’s no coincidence that the ratification process of the Treaty of Aachen was accomplished on Jan. 22, nearly 10 days before the Brexit.

Given this context, Brexit will not only challenge Turkey’s bilateral economic and trade dossiers with the U.K., but will also bring about new difficulties over its troubled relationship with the EU.

As the UK Ambassador to Turkey Sir Dominick Chilcott has underlined in an interview with Bloomberg TV, there is time ahead for Ankara and London to work on a new deal for trade as the U.K. is also leaving the Customs Union with the EU and 90 percent of the nearly $20 billion trade with Turkey is made through the Customs Union. The new era would open new doors for the two economies, the ambassador has also suggested, making sure that Ankara-London ties will be even more special in the post-Brexit period.

Two non-EU NATO powers, one on the northwestern edge and the other on the southeastern wing of Europe, enjoying very good political ties with a strong will to deepen them, can sure turn this new reality into an advantage.

From the Turkish perspective, however, Brexit means losing a very good friend in the EU which has long been supporting Turkey’s full membership to the EU once it meets all the political criteria. All the British governments have pledged important support to Turkey’s EU journey since its candidacy was approved in 1999. Not only is the departure of the U.K. very unfortunate for Turkey, but so is its timing.

It comes at a time when Turkey’s membership talks have already stalled with no hopes that they will soon be revived. In addition to this, there are reports about a France-led work at the EU for a complete overhaul of the enlargement process. A meeting is planned to take place in the coming months to this end.

Another important factor about the timing of Brexit is the fact that it coincides with the growing conflicts between Turkey and many EU nations over the continued regional disputes, like Syria, Libya, and eastern Mediterranean. The tension between Turkey and Greece, Greek Cyprus, Italy, France, etc., will continue to escalate in the coming period as there seems to be an easy solution to these regional conflicts.

All these difficulties would already be experienced even if the U.K. did not leave the European Union, that’s for sure. However, it won’t be an exaggerated opinion to suggest that post-Brexit will introduce additional challenges in front of Turkey’s European  journey.