The UK has signed a free trade deal with Turkey.
The continuity agreement, signed by both trade ministers on Tuesday in a video conference call, takes effect on 1 January and ensures that the existing flow of goods will not be affected when the UK formally leaves the EU at the end of the year.
Trade between London and Ankara was worth £18.6bn in 2019, and the UK is Turkey’s second-biggest export market, mostly for precious metals, vehicles, textiles and electrical equipment. While Turkey is not an EU member, it does have a customs union with the EU, meaning that the new UK-Turkey deal could not be struck until after the Brexit deal was finalised.
“Today’s deal delivers vital certainty for business and supports thousands of jobs across the UK in the manufacturing, automotive and steel industries,” said the international trade secretary, Liz Truss.
“It paves the way for a new, more ambitious deal with Turkey in the near future, and is part of our plan to put the UK at the centre of a network of modern agreements with dynamic economies.”
Turkey’s trade minister, Ruhsar Pekcan, called the deal a landmark in UK-Turkish relations.
According to the Department for International Trade, the new deal will secure existing preferential tariffs for 7,600 UK businesses exporting machinery, iron and steel to Turkey, and protect automotive and manufacturing supply chains.
The accord also commits both countries to discussions aimed at expanding the scope of the agreement to include services and agriculture within the next two years.
Turkey started talks aimed at joining the EU as far back as 2005, and at that time Britain was one of the countries supporting EU membership for Turkey - with people who were to end up on both sides of the Brexit argument, including David Cameron on the one side and Boris Johnson on the other, at that time supporting that position.
However, changes in the position of the present Turkish government made this increasingly more difficult.
The UK-Turkey agreement will come into force from next month. There will not be time for it to be fully ratified in either of the two countries’ parliaments before the year’s end, but both governments will use executive powers to apply it on an interim basis from 1st January until it can be put to their respective parliaments..
The deal with Turkey is the fifth-biggest of the bilateral free trade agreement the UK has negotiated with individual states after the deals with Japan, Canada, Switzerland and Norway. Trade agreements with 62 countries have now been signed in preparation for the UK’s formal exit from the EU single market on 1 January.