The United Kingdom’s new trade deal with Turkey ignores the Turkish government’s continuing human rights abuses and should have been scrutinised by British parliament, Guardian columnist Simon Tisdall wrote in an opinion piece published on Sunday.
The agreement also boosts Turkey’s “dangerous” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and undermines pledges by the British government that “global Britain” will uphold international laws and values, Tisdall said.
Turkey and the U.K. extended their free trade deal on Tuesday, days before Britain formally left the European Union, to continue the existing flow of goods.
British Trade Minister Liz Truss delivered Erdoğan a “needed win” as his country faces years of economic mismanagement and rows with the United States and European Union over Turkish policy towards Russia, Syria, Libya, Greece and Cyprus, Tisdall said.
“It may be naive to think that the agreement, which replicates existing EU-Turkey arrangements, would allow matters of principle to imperil 18.6 billion British pounds ($25.4 billion) in two-way trade,” the foreign affairs commentator said.
“Yet Britain is Turkey’s second-largest export market. Ankara was desperate to maintain tariff-free access. This gave (Prime Minister Boris) Johnson and Truss leverage. It was a sovereign moment. But they failed to demand that Erdoğan change his ways.”
After clinching a narrow trade deal with the EU two weeks ago, the Johnson government “rolled over” about 30 existing trade agreements, including those signed with countries or entities with contentious human rights records, to replace arrangements with the European bloc.
These countries and entities include Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, deals have not faced thorough scrutiny in British parliament, Tisdall said.
Tisdall highlighted the British government’s lukewarm response to Erdoğan’s “trouble-making in the eastern Mediterranean” and British-made technology and equipment Turkey used in Syria, Libya and domestically.
“Johnson’s government, ever mindful of its Brexit needs, has kept its head down (regarding Turkey),” Tisdall said. It is “hellbent on cutting hasty, ill-considered deals with all manner of undesirable customers around the world, without proper regard for the political, legal, strategic and human consequences”, he said.