In his latest speech on security, Michael Gove backed up his usual anti-Turkey argument with six genuine facts – all carefully selected to support his misleading case.
“Fact One. It is official British Government policy for Turkey to join the EU, restated by ministers time and again.”
David Cameron has also said, rather tongue-in-cheek, that Turkey is on track to actually join in “the year 3000”. The following InFacts video explains why.
“Fact Two. It is official EU policy for Turkey to become a member. Indeed the Commission has announced the pace of accession will be accelerated.”
Not to any great speed. As part of the EU-Turkey deal on migration, Brussels agreed to open one more “chapter” Turkey must fulfill before joining. This will be the 16th of 35 chapters opened in Turkey’s 29-year-long accession process. Only one has been closed so far. The EU has reported “significant backsliding” by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government over civil freedoms, chapters which are nowhere near being opened.
“Fact Three. Turkey has threatened to end cooperation in stopping mass migration unless the deal for visa-free travel to Europe is implemented in full.”
Erdogan has been playing hardball and the deal may collapse. But when it looked like the deal was on track, Brexiteers loved saying how bad visa-free travel would be for Britain. Neither argument is good. Visa-free travel would apply only to the Schengen Area, which Britain is not part of. What’s more, if Turkey fails to stop migrants entering Greece, the frontiers north of Greece have been slamming shut in recent months. Even if some migrants make their way to Calais, it is hard to get across the Channel to Britain.
“Fact Four. This visa-free zone which stretches from Turkey’s border with Syria, Iraq and Iran to the English Channel is anticipated to start this year once this referendum is out of the way.”
Gove is trying to suggest people can roam unhindered from Syria, Iraq and Iran to Britain. But this isn’t true – for two reasons. First, visa-free travel – if, indeed, it ever happened – wouldn’t give Turks access to Britain. Second, it wouldn’t give visa-free access to the Schengen Area for Syrians, Iraqis and Iranians.
“Fact Five. The British Government is spending nearly £2 billion to help five countries join the EU including Albania, Serbia, and Turkey.”
The UK’s share of the EU planned spending to help these five countries join the EU is actually £1.2 billion, not £2 billion. What’s more, Gove doesn’t mention this is spread over seven years. The UK could also end up paying another £600 million to help Turkey deal with Syrian refugees. But given the serious problems in the region, that may be money well worth spending.
“Fact Six. It is official British Government policy not to have a referendum on new countries joining.”
British governments have never held referenda on new EU members, although that doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. Other countries, most notably Austria, have promised a referendum on Turkish accession. What the UK definitely has is a veto, which can be exercised by the politicians we vote into power.
Edited by Hugo Dixon