The UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) will not affect its appreciation of Turkey’s strategic value, and the two sides’ relations will continue, Anadolu Agency reported Britain’s consul general in Istanbul stating on Wednesday.
“Our strategic bilateral relationship with Turkey will continue to be of great importance to the United Kingdom,” Judith Slater, who is also the UK’s trade commissioner for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, told Anadolu Agency.
Slater confirmed that the UK aims to strengthen its partnership with Turkey and make both countries safer and more prosperous.
“That means working together across a broad range of issues to facilitate regional stability and security, promote people-to-people and cultural links and growing our bilateral trade and investment,” she stressed.
Slater noted that the UK’s partnership with Turkey in leading organisations like G20, the Council of Europe and NATO is likely to become increasingly significant.
“We are leaving the European Union but not turning our backs on Europe. We will continue to cultivate close, productive relations – of mutual benefit – with European countries,” she added.
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UK continues to work closely with Turkey
Touching on the issue of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, Slater affirmed that both sides are very keen to ensure, as far as possible, a smooth transition [for post-Brexit trade relations] by putting an FTA in place before the end of the year.
“The eighth meeting of the Trade Working Group was held on 25 June, 2020, and made good progress,” she disclosed, noting that further talks are scheduled for the summer period.
“Turkey’s unique position in a customs union with the EU means some of the UK’s [with Turkey] will be influenced by the agreement which the UK reaches with the EU.”
The UK has signed FTAs with many nations, but Ankara is unable to sign an FTA with London due to Turkey’s international commitments with the EU.
The UK continues to work closely with Turkey to progress their discussions to ensure that a strong trading relationship continues at the end of the transition period on 31 December, 2020, Slater explained.
FTA to facilitate future trade
The UK government places a great deal of importance on the trading relationship with Turkey, according to Slater, recalling that bilateral trade grew by over 65 per cent between 2008 and 2019.
The UK is Turkey’s second-biggest export market and third-largest foreign direct investment partner, noted Slater.
“Ratification of a continuity FTA will facilitate future trade. We continue to promote bilateral trade and investment and are also keen to address existing market access barriers to our companies and to collaborate in projects in third countries,” highlighted Slater.
“We believe that the UK is a very attractive destination for foreign investment and will continue to be so.”
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Last year, the UK secured more foreign direct investment (FDI) than Germany and France combined, continuing to hold the title of the most attractive place in Europe for FDI.
“We have seen investment from big Turkish firms, like the purchase of United Biscuits by Yildiz Holding, Turkish investment in the financial sector and also the interest of Turkish entrepreneurial companies and startups, particularly in the tech sector.”
According to Slater, there is a lot of Turkish interest in investing in the UK, and the British side is optimistic about the future in this area.
“But we are not complacent and recognise that the UK cannot sit still but needs to continue doing everything it can to make sure it remains a magnet for investors.”
“Technology is one such key sector. This is very much the view of Prime Minister Boris Johnson,” concluded Slater.