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Discussing Europe's future in London

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11.01.2017

Earlier this week, I attended a round table meeting on the future of Europe in London hosted by Turkey's EU Ministry. Turkish and British journalists shared their views on pressing problems in the old continent and the state of Turkey-EU relations. Among the participants were representatives from Sabah and Daily Sabah, A Haber, Anadolu Agency, CNN Turk, TRT World, The Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and Reuters.

The discussion focused on Turkey's rapprochement with Russia, the country's place in the Western alliance, the future of the refugee deal and the prospect of peace in Cyprus. In particular, the participants considered the risk of 3 million Syrian refugees reaching Europe as a nightmare scenario. In response, the Turkish participants warned that the European Union's attempts to strong arm Turkey into softening its anti-terror laws in return for visa liberalization was a serious mistake.

Without a doubt, the most interesting aspect of the meeting was that it featured journalists from two countries whose relationship with Brussels was uncertain. After five decades of integration talks, the Turks have grown tired of the EU. In contrast, Britain just decided to leave the organization. Obviously, the two countries have a lot to learn from one another.

Although Ankara and London followed different paths, they have a lot in common today. And Turkey's pursuit of EU membership is closely related to London's way out.

Needless to say, Britain's agenda focuses on the Brexit process, which is set to begin in March. There are two potential road maps at this time: First, what is called "Hard Brexit" would involve a quick exit without an alternative agreement with the European Union. In this case, the Brits will forfeit their access to the common market and assume full authority over immigration and trade deals. However, the uncertainty that this option entails makes big business, in particular the financial sector, uncomfortable.

The second option is Soft Brexit, which would slow down Britain's exit by creating an alternative arrangement related to free trade. The idea of the free movement of people, goods, services and capital without the downsides.

I maintain that the.....