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What is the “Turkish option”?

Exiting the EU but joining the EU’s Customs Union.

What would it mean for the UK?

  • Customs Union countries operate under a common trade policy, common rules of origin and a common external tariff. No duties on goods that are traded with the EU, in return for compliance with single market regulation. The Customs Union covers all industrial goods but does not address agriculture (except processed agricultural products) or services, so financial services would not be covered.[1]
  • The UK would have no vote or influence over the trade deals that the EU pursues: external trade policy would effectively be outsourced to the EU.
  • The UK would receive partial access to the single market, not including services or finance.
  • No EU budget contributions would be required.
  • The UK would not be subject to the rules on freedom of movement and would have full control over its own borders. However, British people would equally lose the right to work and travel freely across the EU.
  • Again, the UK would not have a say in how the rules are made: Turkey must comply with many EU single market regulations and all EU trade arrangements, but has no influence on their composition.
  • As with the Swiss arrangements, the customs union with Turkey was established as a precursor to EU membership; it is not clear that there would be appetite within the EU for extending a similar arrangement to the UK.
The UK business lobby view

It would not be in the UK’s interest to be a silent partner in the EU’s trade policy, allowing other countries to set the tone for Europe’s openness to the world and the details of its trade deals, which would define the daily framework for the UK’s global trade. The UK needs to be at the table setting the mandate and approving the final agreement”. CBI, “Our Global Future: The Business Vision for a Reformed EU”, November 2013.


  1. EU trade with Turkey – http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/countries/turkey/index_en.htm. See also Decision No 1/95 of the EC-Turkey Association Council of 22 December 1995 on implementing the final phase of the Customs Union (96/142/EC) – http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2003/december/tradoc_115267.pdf.