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Merkel owes us one for Turkey charade

by Hugo Dixon | 08.08.2016

With President Recep Tayyip Erdogan backing the death penalty in response to last month’s coup attempt, Turkey is close to disqualifying itself from being an EU member. It’s a pity UK voters didn’t know the idea that Turkey was about to join the club wasn’t serious when they voted to quit it.

Angela Merkel’s freelance Middle Eastern diplomacy is largely to blame.

The German chancellor adopted an open-door policy for Syrian refugees. This led to over a million refugees traipsing across the Balkans on their way to Germany. The Leave camp cynically played on British voters’ fears that they would end up here – though very few have managed to cross the Channel and, in any case, quitting the EU won’t protect us from migration outside Europe. We’d have more chance to tackle this problem if we stay.

After Merkel found that the German people wouldn’t go along with her open-door policy, she panicked and cut a deal with Turkey to stop the flood of refugees. The quid pro quo was that its talks to join the EU – which have been moving at a snail’s pace since 1987- would be energised. Turks would also get visa-free travel to the Schengen area.

This deal was another godsend to British eurosceptics. They said Turkey, with its near 80 million people, was on the point of joining the EU – which it isn’t. They also talked about the visa-free deal as if it covered the UK – which is doesn’t, since we are not in Schengen.

Now Merkel is not directly responsible for the distortions of the Leave camp. But she is responsible for her own ill-thought out policies and, to some extent, for their consequences. She owes Britain one.

How can she make recompense? Well, part of the answer is to end the charade that Turkey is on track to join the EU. Nobody close to the discussions believed this; they just found it convenient to pretend it was the case.

Following Erdogan’s backing of the death penalty – which is incompatible with EU membership – Merkel should make clear that this is off the cards. That won’t undo the damage of the Brexit referendum, unless there is some new vote. This is why the German chancellor should do more, say by being generous on the Brexit terms.

10 Responses to “Merkel owes us one for Turkey charade”

  • What on earth is the logic that Angela Merkel owes us one? You could argue due to the paltry number of refugees we have taken that we owe her one. It was made clear time and time again that Turkey was in no danger of joining the EU any time soon. And we are not in Schengen so there is minimal chance that many Turks will find themselves over here.

  • “It was made clear time and time again that Turkey was in no danger of joining the EU any time soon”

    Oh come on Jackie … Another Leave Lie … The day before the vote, Vote Leave published a leaflet with a map of countries ‘set to join’ the EU. Including Turkey.

    • @Jonathan. I don’t follow? She did say “Turkey was in *no* danger of joining the EU any time soon”. Aren’t you agreeing with each other?

      I also got deceitful Turkey/EU leaflet too. It wasn’t just the lie about Turkish membership either: it was the outrageous – but clearly intentional – implication that Iraq and Syria would be next in joining the EU (these being the only two countries on the map actually labelled, and shaded in a paler colour to the other countries the leaflet claimed were joining the EU).

  • Ah, yes this must be so easy, blame others for own failings.
    Brexit, Germany’s fault, (UK voted out)
    Bad Turkey deal, Germany’s fault, (proposed by Dutch labour party leader and mostly implemented by the Dutch during their EU presidency.)
    Refugees, Germany’s fault, (taking in more poor souls in a week then UK promised to take in in 5 years.)
    Euro-crisis, Germany’s fault, (UK blocked legislation on a much needed Banking Union.)
    Let me predictable future.
    Bad EU deal, Germany’s fault,
    Anything else bad, probably Germany’s fault.

  • Come off it! This article sounds more like a leave blog than something sensible!

    Merkel has done far more for European unity in the face of several crises than D Cameron and his team of quitters ever managed to achieve.

    To tell Turkey off in plain German for the sake of our English leaving friends isn’t going to help the people who are really affected by a massive civil war in Syria and the now terrible situation for democracy and human rights in Turkey.

    Merkel has to take a much broader view than the desires of a few englanders!

  • I’m frankly a little disappointed in you Hugo. By “blaming” Germany for saving countless refugees in one of the most inspiring humanitarian acts in decades you are not only buying into the Brexiteer diagnosis of the problem, but also addopting their prescriptions.

    Was the deal with Turkey an uncomfortable compromise? Certainly. But it was one bourne of necessity as a result of the member-states’ inability to see the bigger picture. Now you’re asking for us to get the kind of deal the Remain side made clear was not on the cards in our Article 50 negotiations.

    You are feeding into a dangerous rhetorical argument by legitimizing the idea that a “Norway-style” arrangement would be un-generous. I see nothing wrong with a deal wherein the UK remains in the Single Market, accepting the four freedoms participation entails, while being outside the Customs Union.

    Free movement has been good for the British economy, and any problems arising from it have been the product of poor domestic policy. Further, it is in the UK’s national interest for the EU to remain united. By demanding special treatment, we would be precipitating the collapse of the project, and that would cause us unimaginable economic harm.

    I hope to see you return to making a positive pro-European case, rather than undermining it.

  • Where’s my earlier comment? I took the time to write a fairly substantial post, and a day later it’s srill not up. What’s the problem?

  • Again I read British blaming Merkel for refugee crisis. Couldn´t maybe Mr. Sikes have anything to do with that problem? Couldn´t british colonial politics have anything to do with that? Isn´t UKs wealth coming from exploiting its colonies for centuries? So, who owes whom one?

  • Sorry ‘Infacts’, but on this one you have let yourselves down. I have been with you all the way, but I read this post with complete dismay. The people who are to blame for the Brexit vote, are Johnson, Gove, Stewart, Leadsome, Farage . . . and all those who told blatant lies in order to get the result they wanted. Let’s not go down the same road that they did by blaming other countries. I totally agree with the reply from Sieuwke above.

  • Seriously? Hasn’t the UK government been the cheerleader-in-chief for Turkish accession for years? Not because it was realistically going to happen but because it was a convenient diplomatic carrot.

    Isn’t Johnson *still* supporting Turkish accession even though it is now no business of the UK whatsoever. Johnson – like Farage – seems to have the goal, not just of bringing the the UK ruinously out of the EU, but of causing as much damage to the rest of the EU has he can. (Not a good way to get a reasonable Brexit deal, you’d think.) Perhaps he is hoping absurdly that the EU will collapse (it won’t) in order to vindicate his failed bid for leadership of the Tories disguised as a referendum on EU membership.

    But let’s not get into UKIP territory by blaming the UK’s decline and bad governance on foreigners.

    I now find it a badge of shame to be English. But at least I can take a little pride in the vast majority of MEPs – my fellow Europeans – who voted to take a stand against authoritarianism, political purges, human rights violations and the death penalty. I’m looking forward to the possibility of continuing to support them though Associate EU Citizenship. That’s assuming the fight to keep us in the EU – against Leave’s copious and outrageous lies – fails.