10 FEBRUARY 2023 | OPINION
The author, Chet Ramadan, is a campaigner for Freedom and Fairness for Northern Cyprus.
As the United Kingdom marked the three-year anniversary since leaving the European Union last week, there has been much reflection on whether successive governments have taken advantage of the potential benefits Brexit has offered our nation.
In a thorough assessment, the European Research Group (ERG) identified a number of opportunities that have been taken up, including the early procurement of Covid vaccines, more than seventy signed Free Trade Agreements and the establishment of eight freeports.
The most impressive and impactful achievement since the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is, however, in the foreign policy arena. The ERG said:
“We were the first to send arms to defend Ukraine ignoring German bans on overflight and other political pressure. While the UK could have helped Ukraine as an EU member state, the freedom outside of the EU’s unwritten rules on solidarity in foreign policy (and drive towards ever closer union), the horse-trading and consensual method of EU decision-making made this much easier and faster.”
The UK’s leadership following the Russian invasion of Ukraine should not be underestimated. Without the swift action taken by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, it is entirely plausible that Ukraine could have fallen very early on.
Ukraine is a fine example of how the UK can shape its role in the world today. However, it is not just live conflicts where the UK can deliver leadership and direction. There are many frozen conflicts across the globe that have, for too long, gone unresolved.
There is one frozen conflict that sits on the very doorstep of the European continent – the Cyprus issue which has been unresolved for almost fifty years.
Ersin Tatar, President of the TRNC, has just called for a two-state solution for the island. A two-state solution would mean that Greek Cypriot controlled south and the TRNC would have equal sovereign and international status.
Since 1974, talks between the two sides have failed time and again. Negotiations had focused on a federal-based solution, but little to no progress had been made as the Greek Cypriot side rejected the various plans. In total, fifteen settlement plans, including the United Nation’s proposals in 2004 and 2017, have been rejected by the Greek Cypriots.
In 1956, the British Government committed to recognising that partition of the island is among the eventual options to solve the issue. By force of arms, the Greek Cypriot side established an administration in 1963 and for the next eleven years, hundreds of innocent Turkish Cypriot villagers were slaughtered in appalling sectarian Greek Cypriot massacres.
The Turkish intervention in 1974 ended the ethnic cleansing and established peace. It was only thanks to the Turkish peace operation in 1974 that the bloodshed ended, and peace and stability was achieved, with the formation of the TRNC nine years later.
Fifty years have been wasted on negotiations and the international community needs to decide whether it is going to waste fifty more.
Western nations must finally accept that the federal solution has failed and only by establishing equal sovereign and international status can a long-term peaceful solution truly be found.
By seizing the opportunities Brexit affords us, Britain can establish direct trade with and international flights to and from the TRNC. This is the first step towards a two-state solution and resolving Europe’s longest frozen conflict.