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Ankara Agreement - ECAA - A brief history and the ‘standstill clause’

The ECAA with Turkey – the Ankara Agreement – is a hidden backwater of the immigration rules, unchartered by many experienced immigration professionals.  However obscure, these provisions have facilitated the establishment of extensive numbers of successful businesses by Turkish Businessperson visa holders, created opportunities for employment, and have contributed to vibrant communities throughout the UK and Europe.  

A brief history of the Ankara Agreement – and the ‘standstill clause’

Upon entering into membership of the EEC in 1972, the UK became a party to a number of corollary ‘association’ agreements with certain countries, including Turkey, which were being encouraged to take the route to membership of the EU.  These agreements were constructed, for nationals of these countries, to facilitate and govern the rights of entry into member states to undertake economic activities.

The domestic rules governing these agreements in the UK were codified in 1973 (HC 509 and 510).  A further agreement involving Turkish nationals was ratified in 1980 (Decision 1/80), which governed the progressive acquisition of rights of residence by Turkish workers. The rules governing Turkish businesspersons therefore remained the original 1973 rules, and workers are governed by the 1980 rules.

The EC association agreements contained ‘standstill clauses’ which prohibited adopting stricter domestic measures to facilitate the entry and establishment of these individuals into the member states than those which were in place at the time of entry into the agreement.  

It is important to note the distinction between the two regimes, the obvious being that one is governed by 1973 rules (businesspersons) and the other by provisions set down in 1980 (workers).  Less obvious, which has been more troublesome for the courts, is that the standstill clause governs entry into and establishment in the member states before substantive rights (which can be relied upon directly) are acquired.   

This means that businesspersons therefore must apply to the Home Office for permission to operate their business before being granted leave, and with expiry of that leave re-apply, until, with a grant of indefinite leave to remain, they could be granted a substantive or indefinite right to reside in the UK  i.e. settlement. Workers, having met the criteria to establish themselves as workers in the UK, begin to acquire cumulative (and progressively less restrictive) rights of residence which they can rely upon directly with the passing of set numbers of years. Like EU qualified persons, so long as Turkish workers continue to work under the conditions set out in Decision 1/80, they have a right to reside in that member state, and the provisions they rely upon  are of direct effect.

In the next article in this series we will look at the current provisions governing applications by Turkish workers and businesspersons under the Ankara Agreement.  Please note that the settlement provisions for both regimes have recently changed, and will be the subject of a further article.

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