There was never any chance of Turkey joining the EU soon. That didn’t stop Vote Leave publishing a report just before the referendum saying Turkey was “scheduled” to join the EU in 2020 – a myth reiterated by UKIP.
With Recep Tayyip Erdogan dragging the country further towards an authoritarian state and away from European values, the prospect of Turkey joining the EU is vanishingly small. No sooner did the president win a disputed referendum on Sunday that enhances his power than he reiterated his desire to restore the death penalty.
If Turkey had been on track to embrace democracy, the rule of law and human rights – and entrench these values in a stable constitutional framework – it might have been a good member of the EU. In theory, bolting the country into the family of democratic nations when there is so much chaos on its border in the Middle East could have been attractive. But the prospect of Turkey making such a giant leap hasn’t been realistic for years, as Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies have become increasingly apparent.
With Turkey now beyond the pale, at least until there is a change of regime, where does that leave the UK? Well, on one level, it should be apparent to anybody who was duped by Leaver rhetoric that there is nothing to fear about the country joining the EU.
Meanwhile, for geopolitical reasons, the turn Turkey is taking makes it all the more important for us to make common cause with the EU.
Theresa May visited Erdogan just after she saw Donald Trump in January. We’ve since seen Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, claim “shared values” with the Philippines’ brutal president Rodrigo Duterte. Do we really think that our best interests are to be had by sucking up to a gallery of rogues and rascals?
Rather, with our neighbourhood becoming increasingly dangerous, it surely makes sense to stay close to allies with whom we share common values. There are 27 of them just across our borders.
Edited by Luke Lythgoe