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New UK-Turkey Agreement leaves significant areas for review and lacks ambition on human rights

Friday 26 March 2021

A House of Lords International Agreements Committee report finds that the new UK-Turkey Agreement differs in important respects from the underlying EU Arrangement with Turkey, due to Turkey’s close alignment with the EU. This shift in the UK-Turkey relationship has had an adverse impact on some UK businesses and has raised their costs.

The Agreement is not comprehensive: it excludes services trade, investment, substantive provisions on public procurement, sustainable development, and digital trade—all usually included in modern FTAs. The aim is for these and other areas to be part of a review process, with a view to developing an enhanced agreement. The review is due to start within two years.

Agreement “does not address human rights and workers’ rights issues”

Turkey’s human rights record continues to be an area of acute concern. It is therefore regrettable that the UK-Turkey Agreement excludes provisions on human rights—even if this reflects the EU Arrangement. The Committee calls on the Government to explain how it will uphold its vision of ‘values-driven free trade’ in respect of Turkey and urges the Government to argue for the future introduction of provisions on human rights and workers’ rights.

“Significant costs for some UK businesses trading with Turkey”

The new UK-Turkey Agreement converts the EU-Turkey Customs Union into a standard free trade agreement, which has introduced rules of origin requirements on industrial goods traded between the UK and Turkey.  

On technical barriers, the agreement reverts to WTO arrangements—a necessary consequence of Turkey’s alignment with the EU. The Committee finds that this will result in significant costs for some UK businesses trading with Turkey and affect supply chains.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • Some provisions of the Agreement rely on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) and are subject to review after the TCA enters into force.
  • The Committee urges continued cooperation between the UK and the EU on technical barriers to trade—critical also for the UK-Turkey trade relationship.
  • The Government should provide support to help smaller firms navigate the new requirements for UK-Turkish trade.

The report, published today, is the eighth report by the International Agreements Committee and includes scrutiny of two further agreements: ‘Air Services Agreement with Iceland’, and ‘Headquarters Agreement with the Square Kilometre Array

Observatory’. For more information on the work of the International Agreements Committee please see the Committee’s website.

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