Amber Rudd tells Haber she hopes Turkish business visa can be retained after Brexit and applicants can eventually apply for UK citizenship
By Michael Daventry and Timur Ekingen
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has given the UK government’s strongest indication yet that it will retain a prized Turkish visa route after Brexit.
Ms Rudd told Haber this week that she valued the Ankara Agreement, which exclusively allows Turkish citizens to set up a business in Britain, and that the right to eventually apply for UK citizenship was likely to remain.
Her remarks reinforce earlier assurances from Turkish officials that negotiations were underway between Britain and Turkey to keep the visa route after the UK leaves the European Union.
“The Turkish community has been incredibly important and valuable to the UK in general and to this community in particular,” Ms Rudd said during a visit to the Enfield North constituency in support of Nick de Bois, the Conservative candidate in next month’s general election.
“I would hope, post-Brexit, that we’ll find a way of putting something similar into place. I can’t confirm that at the moment because we’re looking at many different parts but I can say confidently that we value the existing arrangements and that we value the contribution that the Turkish community has made in terms of businesses.”
Thousands of Turkish passport holders have used the Ankara Agreement, also known as the ECAA, to establish businesses in the UK, pay taxes and hire employees, and eventually become British citizens.
But a court ruling earlier this year appeared to suggest the route to British citizenship would no longer be automatic, causing concern among some Ankara migrants.
Asked to offer a guarantee that Turkish citizens who have legally and lawfully been in the UK for a number of years will be entitled to apply for settlement and citizenship, the Home Secretary said she could not offer that reassurance until Brexit negotiations had progressed.
But she added: “People who have stayed here for five years are able to get indefinite leave to remain and then to apply for citizenship. That is likely to stay as it is.
“The recent Conservative manifesto set out our commitment to ensure that although we want to reduce the number of immigrants who are coming here overall, we really value … people who create businesses, who create additional employment, who help our economy.
“It seems to me the Turkish community fall into that category.”
If last month’s judicial review at the Upper Tribunal – one of the highest courts in Britain – is fully implemented, Ankara Agreement workers will retain their businesses but never gain the right to settle or apply for UK citizenship.
The Home Office told Haber last week that the general election campaign meant it had not yet decided how to respond, but confirmed Ankara Agreement applicants seeking indefinite leave to remain had been told their paperwork would be delayed for now.
Mr de Bois said Britain’s commitment to Turkey was demonstrated by Prime Minister’s Theresa May’s decision to visit the country immediately after seeing US President Donald Trump.
“The successful British-Turkish diaspora, I think, should take confidence from the fact that this was so high on the PM’s agenda,” he told Haber.