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Even Gove’s facts on Turkey are misleading

by Luke Lythgoe | 09.06.2016

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.

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“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

5 Responses to “Even Gove’s facts on Turkey are misleading”

  • And Boris was in favour once.
    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jun/08/citigroup-warns-staff-brexit-jobs-risk-eu-referendum-london-belfast

    And lots of brexiteers are too.
    http://www.cfot.org.uk/founder-members/

    But the real point is that the purpose of the EU is to maintain the peace within and between member states through democracy and free trade on a level playing field. States that qualify and extend the this zone of peace should be welcomed.

    Gove is just dog whistling “immigrants” and “Muslim”.

  • “It is official government policy” … but Michael, you are part of that official government policy, a member of the cabinet, with collective responsibility.

    How hard has Give tried to change this official government policy from his privileged position inside the actual government?

  • How to make Turkey go away from the EU referendum campaign all together without being chicken.

    Question: Prime Minister, you have said that you want Turkey to join the EU. Indeed on 19.04.16, before the EU Select Committee of the House of Lords, David Lidington said “The prospect of Turkey being able and ready to join in the foreseeable future is not there, but the accession process provides the best means available to us, both for securing greater openness in the Turkish economy, which presents us with huge economic opportunities on our doorstep…and for securing improvements in human rights, the rule of law, media freedom and respect for religious minorities that we all want to
    see. My personal view is that I would like to get Chapter 23 on human rights open.” Prime Minister, if the UK has a veto on Turkish accession by blocking unanimity in the EU Council, can you undertake to exercise the veto and for how long?

    Prime Minister says: “I will never give away the UK veto on Turkish accession for short-term advantage in negotiations and indeed will pass legislation to place a referendum lock on UK acceptance of Turkish membership. I can guarantee that I will sit there and block it until the other 27, who are mostly more flexible, cave in to the UK’s position and deny Turkey accession.”

    No more Turkey to talk! Simple.

    Readers may wish to note, in the evidence to the EU Select Committee, how many references there are to the presence of Turkey at the March EU Council – the one at which the EU migrant deal was made – and the extensive discussions which took place with Turkish ministers. The March EU Council was not about Turkish membership of the EU but David Lidington points out that he, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary spoke extensively about membership to the Turks. To be fair, it was designed to demonstrate the mountain Turkey has yet to climb but Turkey, not a member of the EU, is getting extensive access to the highest councils and who knows where that may lead.

    If Turkey joins the EU it will not be European and it will not be a Union. Nonetheless, our best hope for controlling the terms and having a say is to vote to remain. Otherwise I imagine that we will the sooner face an EU with Turkey in it while we are not a member but Turkey will then be in NATO and the EU and we will only be in NATO. We will then be one of 6 non EU members of NATO outvoted by 22 including Turkey who are in the EU.

  • How to make Turkey go away from the EU referendum campaign all together without being chicken.

    Question: Prime Minister, you have said that you want Turkey to join the EU. Indeed on 19.04.16, before the EU Select Committee of the House of Lords, David Lidington said “The prospect of Turkey being able and ready to join in the foreseeable future is not there, but the accession process provides the best means available to us, both for securing greater openness in the Turkish economy, which presents us with huge economic opportunities on our doorstep…and for securing improvements in human rights, the rule of law, media freedom and respect for religious minorities that we all want to see. My personal view is that I would like to get Chapter 23 on human rights open.” Prime Minister, if the UK has a veto on Turkish accession by blocking unanimity in the EU Council, can you undertake to exercise the veto and for how long?

    Prime Minister says: “I will never give away the UK veto on Turkish accession for short-term advantage in negotiations and indeed will pass legislation to place a referendum lock on UK acceptance of Turkish membership. I can guarantee that I will sit there and block it until the other 27, who are mostly more flexible, cave in to the UK’s position and deny Turkey accession.”

    No more Turkey to talk! Simple.

    Readers may wish to note, in the evidence to the EU Select Committee, how many references there are to the presence of Turkey at the March EU Council – the one at which the EU migrant deal was made – and the extensive discussions which took place with Turkish ministers. The March EU Council was not about Turkish membership of the EU but David Lidington points out that he, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary spoke extensively about membership to the Turks. To be fair, it was designed to demonstrate the mountain Turkey has yet to climb but Turkey, not a member of the EU, is getting extensive access to the highest councils and who knows where that may lead.

    If Turkey joins the EU it will not be European and it will not be a Union. Nonetheless, our best hope for controlling the terms and having a say is to vote to remain. Otherwise I imagine that we will the sooner face an EU with Turkey in it while we are not a member but Turkey will then be in NATO and the EU and we will only be in NATO. We will then be one of 6 non EU members of NATO outvoted by 22 including Turkey who are in the EU.

    • I will start saying that i support your whole argumentation.
      The only thing i would like to underline, is that it isn’t only UK who doesn’t want Turkey in EU. Basically it is EVERY EU country + EU that doesn’t want THIS Turkey in.
      I honestly would be glad if Turkey joined once it becomes a REAL EUROPEAN-LIKE COUNTRY. Even if Russia was an european-like country it would be well accepted from my point of view. The problem with Turkey is that it is far, far away from that status and it is going even farther since Erdogan took the power.
      But this is the reason why none of the EU countries, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Austria, Netherlands and the others, would NEVER accept Turkey in EU at the current state. So i don’t think Britons should really worry that much about Turkey.