May talks trade in Turkey for a fresh Brexit boost

May talks trade in Turkey for a fresh Brexit boost
By Catherine Hardy with Reuters
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Prime Minister Theresa May has left the US and flown to Turkey for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Insiders say it is part of a charm offensive to bolster her hand in negotiations to leave


UK Prime Minister Theresa May is in Ankara for talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Coming a day after she met US President Donald Trump in Washington, insiders say it is part of a charm offensive to bolster her hand in negotiations to leave the EU.

Theresa May arrives in Turkey to draw up a free trade deal in a fresh Brexit boost

— Daily Mail U.K. (@DailyMailUK) January 28, 2017

What did they talk about?

Two key themes were on the agenda.

“They will be discussing a new trade relationship following the UK’s exit from the EU,” said a spokeswoman said before the meeting.

“They are expected to agree to..a strategic security partnership.”

Other topics include Cyprus, Syria and stepping up cooperation on aviation security cooperation.

What has Turkey said?

President Erdogan says they discussed steps towards defence industry cooperation.

Erdogan told reporters he hopes to boost annual trade with the UK to $20 billion from $15.6 billion now

He also said an important step has been taken towards Turkey’s TF-X fighter jet project.

A “working group”

The plan is to launch a joint working group with Ankara to prepare the ground for a new, post-Brexit trade agreement.

May’s spokeswoman said, if there is agreement, Turkey would be the 13th country to set up a working group on trade with the UK.

The UK government is keen to start laying the foundations for bilateral trade agreements for when the country leaves the EU.

It is thought the process will take at least two years from the date formal negotiations are triggered.

Theresa May has said this will come at the end of March.

A “jumbo” free trade deal?

The UK foreign minister Boris Johnson said on a visit to Ankara last year that he was hoping for a “jumbo” free trade deal with Turkey after Brexit.

Ankara has been negotiating its membership of the EU since 2005. However, it is in a customs union with Brussels.

The UK was the second-largest destination for Turkish exports in 2015.

IMF trade figures suggest it bought $10.6 billion in goods.


Only Germany imports more from Turkey.

Will May mention human rights?

There has been international concern about human rights in Turkey since a failed coup attempt in the country last July.

May’s spokeswoman says Britain has “expressed our strong support for Turkey’s democracy and institutions following the coup.”

“But we have also been clear that we urge Turkey to ensure that our response is proportionate, justified and in line with international human rights obligations,” she continued.

Since the failed coup, Turkey has:

  • jailed 40,000 pending trial
  • suspended or dismissed more than 100,000 from the military, judiciary and public services.

More than 5,000 cases filed against #Turkey over post-coup purge, says European Court of Human Rights

— dwnews (@dwnews) January 27, 2017

Human rights not on the agenda for Theresa May's visit to Turkey

— The Guardian (@guardian) January 27, 2017

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