Panel foresees strong Turkey-UK post-Brexit cooperation

Stronger cooperation should see creation of new platform alternative to EU, online webinar hears

Ahmet Gürhan Kartal   | 21.01.2021
Panel foresees strong Turkey-UK post-Brexit cooperation


The future relationship between Turkey and the UK in post-Brexit era can pave the way to new partnerships in various fields in the Middle East, Africa and beyond, a panel heard Wednesday. 

An online webinar organized by the Circle Foundation underlined the possible growth of cooperation between the two countries and underlined that ways to create a new platform, which would be alternative to the EU, should be looked at.

The panel discussing the future relationships was attended by Turkey’s former Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci, Co-Chair of All Parliamentary Group for Turkey Lord Mark McInnes, Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski , British Ambassador to Turkey Sir Dominick Chilcott and Dr Yaprak Gursoy, a senior lecturer of politics and international relations from Aston University.

Moderating the panel, McInnes said being a member of the EU did not permit the UK to establish and develop relationships at a desired level with other countries before the Brexit but in the new era there is potential of improving ties with many countries, including Turkey.

He also pointed out the situation of Uighur Muslims in China and said he was looking forward a partnership with Turkey to defend human rights across the world.  

Cooperation in Middle East, Africa

Former Turkish minister Zeybekci said the UK has been a very important country for Turkish exports, adding there was a huge volume of trade even in 2020 during the pandemic.

Before Brexit, the exports from Turkey to the UK were limited, because of the customs union but that hindrance no longer exists, he said. 

Underlining Turkey’s construction companies’ recent success across the world, Zeybekci emphasized that Turkey and the UK could develop joint projects in many places, including Africa and the Middle East.

The former economy minister also said the two countries could cooperate in energy field.  

New platform

Conservative MP and chief envoy of eastern Europe Daniel Kawczynski said the “supremacy of NATO in Europe should be maintained,” adding that a proposed European army would undermine the alliance.

Kawczynski praised Turkey for hosting millions of refugees and pointed out the importance of Turkey for NATO.

“No country in the world has done to help the refugee crisis in Syria” more than Turkey, Kawczynski said.

He said UK and Turkey are now non-EU members but they belong to NATO, such as Norway and Iceland, adding that an alternative platform to the EU should be created. He said he hopes that “Turkey would join Britain in doing so.” 

Positive perceptions

Presenting an analytical outlook of perceptions in both countries on each other, Yaprak Gursoy said they may play a huge part in future relationship between the two countries.

Positive perceptions in both countries would pave the way for a positive cooperation in the future, Gursoy added.

Good ground for cooperation

Britain’s Ambassador to Ankara Sir Dominick Chilcott said the UK government was exploring how it can use its new role in the world in post-Brexit era.

Underlining that Turkey and the UK have many common points for cooperation, Chilcott said there is “good ground” to be hopeful for new cooperation between the two countries.

He said the Free Trade Agreement signed with Turkey will cover areas such as fresh agricultural products services, digital area, public procurement and “if we succeed in signing a comprehensive agreement,” relationship between the two countries would grow stronger.

Chilcott said Turkey has been “underappreciated for doing our dirty work,” reminding the country’s significance during the cold war era.

“Turkey is the last stable democracy when you head east,” he said, adding it is able to absorb a lot of instability from neighboring countries. 

The ambassador said that Turkish army’s presence in northern Syria “prevents humanitarian catastrophe” and Turkey does not only protect lives of millions of refugees within its borders but also of those in Syria. Turkey also helps in counterterrorism efforts as it fights against Daesh/ISIS.

He said there will be benefits for both countries in deeper cooperation in post-Brexit era. 


Chilcott said the UK has moved to a Australian-style “point-based” immigration system and in the future, Turkish people would be judged fairer in their applications for visas.

He said the number of those from the EU will drop after the end of free movement with Brexit and countries like Turkey would take advantage in receiving visas for business reasons.

Speaking on the same subject, Kawczynski criticized the UK visa policies, saying they were “racist” over the last decades.

He said he found the policies racist because they gave Bulgarian citizens an automatic right to come to the UK, because of the EU membership, but prevent those who would like to come from neighboring Turkey.

Gursoy said it is important for Turkish students and businesspeople to be able to come to the UK without the visa and such a move from Britain would help reducing negative perceptions in Turkey.

The Circle Foundation is a London-based non-profit and independent think-tank aiming to empower the Turkish speaking diaspora through creating a platform for political integration, civic and democratic participation.​​​​​​​

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