Turkey, UK to hold talks on post-Brexit trade, Ankara Agreement valid for 2020: British ambassador
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
The Ankara Agreement and Customs Union with Turkey will continue during the Brexit transition period of 2020, and the two countries will work to sign a bilateral free trade agreement to be put into effect as of Jan. 1, 2021, British Ambassador to Ankara Sir Dominick Chilcott said on Feb. 7.
The most crucial issues regarding Turkish citizens after Brexit in the United Kingdom are regulating the bilateral trade and the rights of Turkish citizens living in this country granted by the Ankara Agreement. The visa scheme issued by the U.K. government to Turkish businesspeople and their families was based on the 1963 Ankara Agreement between Turkey and the European Economic Community, a predecessor to the EU. It has been in use by Turks who came to the U.K. to establish new businesses.
“After the end of the transition period, the end of this year, we will be no more in the EU and we will no longer be a party for the Ankara Agreement. The provisions of the agreement will not apply to us. What we need to do is to find the right provisions to have in its place,” Chilcott said at a meeting with Diplomatic Correspondents’ Association.
He recalled that the British government announced its terms of immigration aspects of Ankara Agreement and a new immigration system which will be an Australian points-based immigration system and will be tuned according to the need of our labor market in the U.K.
“I think this is an advantage for Turkey. The principle behind it is that this is a global system. It does not matter whether you come from Germany, Turkey or Australia, everybody gets the same treatment according to the qualifications that they have under the point-based system,” he said.
As long as the U.K. was an EU member state, the country was under obligation to let any EU nationals who wish to work in the U.K. and some 2-3 million European nationals come to the U.K. to find jobs, he noted.
“It meant that the room for the rest of the world to come to the U.K. was obviously squeezed. Because we have to give first preference to EU citizens. In the future, no country gets the first preference. I imagine that well qualified people that wish to come to the U.K. and not EU national, will have more room. But everything I say is subject to a new law to be introduced in the second half of this year,” the ambassador stated.
Asked if the Ankara Agreement will be valid during the transition period, Chilcott said, “The position will not change until we have a new law. So the arrangement under the Ankara Agreement continues until the new law.”
Free trade deal must be signed before Jan 1, 2021
Recalling that the Customs Union rules will not allow Turkey to have a separate free trade agreement with a third country unless the EU already has a free trade agreement with that country, the ambassador emphasized the sequence requires the finalization of a U.K.-EU deal first.
“The U.K. needs to complete the negotiation with the EU on a future free trade agreement and then we complete our negotiation with Turkey on a bilateral free trade agreement,” he stated.
Chilcott noted that 90 percent of British-Turkish trade, which is worth over 20 billion dollars a year, and has grown steadily in the last decade by 50 percent, is goods passing through the Customs Union agreement.
“So, the fact that we are leaving the Customs Union at the end of this year is very important in bilateral trade. We should make a British-Turkish Free Trade agreement ready by the 1st of January 2021 to ensure continuity of that very valuable trade.”
The ambassador cited commissions established between Turkey and the U.K. when his country went to a Brexit referendum, to discuss the rights of Turkish citizens in the U.K. and the British citizens in Turkey along with the issues of trade. These commissions held several meetings in 2016 and 2017, bur uncertainties halted the talks till now. The ambassador stated that the work of the commission will commence this year.
On the foreign affairs aspect in the post-Brexit era, the U.K. will prioritize to develop ties with some countries including Turkey, the ambassador noted.
“We share NATO alliance, both G-20 economies, both members of the Council of Europe. Turkey is an increasingly important and influential power in the region. Turkey is obviously a country that after Brexit we will put more energy to develop a closer relationship,” he stated.