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Brexit Britain should seize investment opportunities in Northern Cyprus

Around the world, there are myriad opportunities for business and for governments looking to take opportunities in hand. I was reminded of a wonderful opportunity for the United Kingdom only recently – an opportunity that we are currently letting slip for no valid reason.

Earlier this month, I visited Cyprus. It is a beautiful island, but unlike most visitors – I went to the Northern half of the island. The Turkish Republic of North Cyprus declared its independence in 1983 following years of ethnic conflict between the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriot minority.

However, this declaration has only been respected by one nation – Turkey. For all other nations, including our own, the TRNC is illegitimate and occupying land that rightfully belongs to the Greek Cypriot controlled Republic of Cyprus.

It is frankly bizarre that we continue to hold this position. Since the TRNC’s declaration of independence, we have supported the establishment of multiple new nations around the world. Most of these have been due to religious or ethnic conflict and have come from splitting off from existing nations.

I could point to Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina or South Sudan as just three examples of where we have supported the independence of fledgling nations. What makes the TRNC so different? As one of three guarantor nations of Cyprus and former owner of the island, the UK has a unique responsibility to all Cypriots. A responsibility that we have neglected for approaching half a century.

I am very pleased to see areas of great cooperation between the three parties on the island - the TRNC, the Greek Cypriot government and the UN forces maintaining the Green Line ceasefire zone. There are daily interactions between all three sides. There is meaningful cooperation to ensure that peace and understanding is maintained - these must always continue to the mutual benefit of all communities on the island.

There is no reason for us to continue to ignore the TRNC as a legitimate nation - it is already partitioned along ethnic and religious lines. Our High Court has accepted that there is no legal duty preventing us from doing so. In fact, I believe that there is a good case to suggest that we should break from the crowd and lead others in recognising the TRNC.

Recognition of the TRNC would help crystallize the relationships between the two sides. As we in Britain know from our experience in Ireland, linking communities together through cooperating governmental relationships is a lasting route to peace. Each day without conflict is a great step towards a brighter future.

There is no reason for us to continue to ignore the TRNC as a legitimate nation - it is already partitioned along ethnic and religious lines Quote

This would make us only the second nation to currently recognise the TRNC. A position that would grant us great opportunities to embrace our Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot friends as equals once more. Our sovereign military bases on Cyprus and our historic ties already grant us a great deal of influence over the region. By recognising the TRNC, we can go further and start building greater relationships and ties on both sides.

Only recently, a group of influential international businesspeople have announced their intention to start a large redevelopment project in the TRNC which I hope will carry economic and employment benefits for Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

During the early 1970s, Maraş was the top tourist destination in Cyprus and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and attracted the glitz and glamour of Hollywood celebrities such as Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren. However, following the Cypriot civil war and the Turkish intervention it has lain empty and is now a ghost town.

Under the new proposals, Maraş would be restored to its place as one of the world’s top holiday destinations. Dozens of luxury hotels and resorts, shops and fine dining restaurants are planned. Such a resort would benefit both nations on the island with increased travel and holiday opportunities.

Tourism is one of the island’s most dominant industries. Were the UK to recognise the TRNC, I can envisage great potential for the economies of the North and South. Tourists, seeking an affordable holiday and curious to see what life in the North is like, would be able to venture south. Both sides can agree on freedom of movement for tourists to enable mutual economic growth - I believe the political will exists, and only through compromise can common ground be achieved.

The TRNC also represents opportunity for the United Kingdom. In many ways, the TRNC would be a natural home for British businesses and a great place for investment. Thousands of Turkish Cypriots live in the UK and the island is an incredibly popular destination for many Brits.

At the very least, the government could acknowledge that our current ban on direct flights to the TRNC is counterproductive for UK residents and UK businesses.

Brexit is about seizing global opportunities. This is one of them.


Baroness Mobarik CBE is a British Conservative politician and Life Peer. She served as MEP for Scotland from 2017 to 2020.

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