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Analysis

To think Leavers used scare tactic of Turkey joining EU

by Hugo Dixon | 17.04.2017

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.

Vote Leave propaganda on Turkey

Vote Leave often warned of Turkey’s imminent accession to the EU

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.

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

3 Responses to “To think Leavers used scare tactic of Turkey joining EU”

  • Turkey’s imminent membership of the EU ,and access of its 80 million population to the UK, was one of Farage’s scare stories (amongst many). However, even before the UK Referendum, it was clear that several countries (notably Germany and Holland) had very strong reservations about allowing it. Ironically, the UK was one of the strongest supporters of Turkish membership. However, since the introduction of martial law and the widespread arrest of journalists etc. and now the Turkish Referendum result, virtually making Turkey into a one party state, the prospect of EU membership is completly out of the question.
    Not that that will bother Farage and his cohorts in the slightest, his goal being to dupe as many gullible people as possible, when it counted.

  • The 80 million Turks poised to flood into the EU was never realistic and never going to happen, but why let the facts get in the way of a good scare was the Leave campaigns philosophy, and all ways has been. Erdogan’s lust for power has been a stumbling block for years, and, as said in a previous comment, the irony has long been that the UK was the biggest supporter of Turkish accession. One has to wonder what the reason for that was. The UK’s behaviour under successive governments toward our EU partners has been by turns obstructionist or contrarian, with either outright blocking of often sensible policies or simply taking positions which are in direct conflict with policies we have agreed to in the Council of Ministers. And then there is the constant “blaming Brussels” often for things we could have dealt with quite easily by simply doing something sensible at home – like ID Cards and a population register such as those everyone else in Europe have.

    It won’t stop once we leave either. “The EU” will continue to be the whipping boy for our politicians no matter what the form or shape of the agreements we eventually end up with after Brexit.

  • I never understood how the Conservative Friends of Turkey (see cfot.org.uk) never got more widely publicised and deconstructed during the referendum. Founder members include many prominent Brexiteers (Carswell, BoJo, Hannan) and their aims include, inter alia to:

    “Lobby in favour of Turkish membership of the EU with a stress on Turkey’s role in the bloc, the region and its strong ties to Western institutions.”

    Becoming an over-used phrase in context of Brexit, but one really can’t make this stuff up.