On January 28, 2017, UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May closed a £20 billion trade deal with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. She met with President Erdogan in Ankara, Turkey where she stayed for lunch and discussed several issues. As part of the deal, Britain agreed to help develop £100 million worth of fighter jets for Turkey’s Air Force.
Britain and Turkey Enter Partnership to Develop Fighter Jets for Turkey’s Air Force
BAE Systems, a defense, aerospace, and security company headquartered in London, will help Turkish Aerospace Industries develop the new fighter jets for the country’s air force. TAI is the country’s national aerospace firm. BAE Systems signed the deal after talks at the Presidential Palace in Ankara. Ian King, CEO of BAE Systems, thinks it’s an exciting step in fostering relations between Turkey and the United Kingdom.
President Erdogan agreed he would increase trade to £20 billion. Turkey currently trades £16 billion with the UK. According to Prime Minister May, the defense deal
“underlines once again that Britain is a great, global, trading nation.”
National security was also discussed during the meeting. Europe is counting on Turkey to defend its important eastern side. Prime Minister May referred to Turkey as one of the UK’s oldest friends and expressed an interest in developing a relationship with them again.
Just hours before her meeting with President Erdogan, Prime Minister May met with the U.S. President Donald Trump. Both of these meetings were significant. They also marked her first time paying visits to the leaders of the US and Turkey since she became Prime Minister. It sets the tone for future meetings and relations with the two countries.
How UK Citizens Reacted to the Defense Deal and What the Future Holds for Britain’s Partnership with Turkey
Supporters of Brexit, the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, view this defense deal as an example of what Britain can accomplish without the EU. While talking to the media, Prime Minister May and President Erdogan confirmed they would continue building relations between the two countries, especially after Brexit.
The UK’s official exit from the EU will begin at the end of March with the submission of Article 50. This is a section of the European Union treaty that outlines how a country may voluntarily leave the EU.
Critics in the UK said they would be disappointed if Prime Minister May didn’t bring up human rights during the meeting with President Erdogan. After the 2016 coup d’etat attempt in Turkey, the country has arrested, dismissed, and suspended over 140,000 people. Turkey also imprisons more journalists than any other country in the world.
Prime Minister May listened to the criticism and touched on human rights during her meeting with President Erdogan.
“I am proud that the UK stood with you on July 15th last year in defense of your democracy. Now it is important that Turkey sustains that democracy by maintaining the rule of law and upholding its human rights obligations as the government has undertaken to do.”
Why Britain’s Defense Deal with Turkey is Important
This deal is important because it opens the door to a potentially stronger defense partnership between the UK and Turkey. It will also likely secure jobs in both countries for decades. The defense deal is one of the first trade-related accords to go in effect after the UK leaves the European Union.
Turkey is aiming to increase spending on trade with Britain to £20 billion, a £4 billion increase. This agreement shows that Britain is capable of making good deals with countries on its own, something a few opposers of Brexit thought wouldn’t be possible.
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