Leave camp’s Turkey propaganda comes unstuck

by Charlie Mitchell | 24.11.2016

MEPs today voted to freeze Turkey’s accession talks. That means, despite the Leave camp’s propaganda that the country was on the point of joining the EU, its already tiny chance of doing so any time soon is now minuscule.

In May, Michael Gove, Vote Leave’s campaign chair, launched a report which said Turkey was “scheduled” to join the EU in 2020 – a myth reiterated by UKIP. The Sun’s splash on June 12 was: “Stuffed by Turkey: More than 700,000 Turks ‘will flock to live and work in Britain after country joins EU’”. And the Leave campaign issued the following poster.


In fact, back in June Turkey was nowhere near joining. Since 1987 the country had closed just one of the requisite 35 “chapters” in the accession process. Talks hadn’t even begun on 20 of them. A European Commission report in November 2015 found numerous “shortcomings”. It noted that Turkey “needs to effectively guarantee the rights of women, children, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals”. In addition, the Commission reported “significant backsliding in the areas of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly”.

Even if Turkey were to close all 35 chapters, EU member states would have to approve its accession. Britain could have vetoed it.

Today’s vote in the European Parliament – which is non-binding – pushes Turkey’s membership further into never-never land. It’s a reaction to increased authoritarianism which is inconsistent with the EU’s values.

Since a failed military coup in July, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has orchestrated the removal of over 100,000 soldiers, judges, civil servants and teachers. Independent media outlets have been closed down, and journalists jailed. The leaders of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party have been detained.

Erdogan has also threatened to reinstate the death penalty. Article 2 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights states that “no one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed”. Meanwhile, the government is still working on a plan to pardon men convicted of intercourse with underage girls if they marry them, though it withdrew legislation earlier this week after street protests.

Despite all this, Boris Johnson is supporting Turkey’s bid for EU membership – something which has angered politicians in other EU countries.

An astonishing 45% of respondents to a June 16 Ipsos MORI poll thought that “Turkey will be fast-tracked into the European Union”. Anybody who voted to quit the EU because Turkey was about to join should think again.

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This article was updated shortly after publication to make clear that the European Parliament vote is non-binding

Edited by Hugo Dixon

One Response to “Leave camp’s Turkey propaganda comes unstuck”

  • Mail(will not be published) (required)

    I’ll go along with that

    Seriously, eurosceptics in Turkey if there are such, will be pleased at the vote in the European Parliament.
    Ordinary,decent right-thinking people should be alert to efforts by eurosceptics in this country to put the UK beyond the limits of eligibility for membership of the EU in the years ahead. Someone in UKIP has already proposed a referendum on capital punishment.