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Turkey: the big lie

by David Hannay | 13.06.2016

It is often said in the Middle East that, if you are going to tell a lie, it had better be a big lie since then more people will believe you. In its handling of the issue of Turkey’s application to join the EU the Leave campaign has certainly shown that it has learned to adopt and to apply that cynical piece of advice. The claims that Turkey could be a member of the EU by 2020 and that Britain has no control over the process are simply untrue.

The reality is entirely different. Over recent months President Erdogan’s government has set back any hope of making progress in Turkey’s accession negotiations by a series of policy moves which are incompatible with the founding values of the EU, respect for which is an essential condition for eventual membership. By interfering with freedom of the press, by persecuting critics of his government and by moving to suspend the immunity of opposition members of parliament he has jeopardised the whole process. That is a view widely shared right across Europe.

In any case, because of the requirement for unanimity in closing each of the 35 “chapters” in Turkey’s accession negotiations, only one of which has so far been closed, Britain does not need to leave the EU in order to take back control over this process. It already has control over it.

What does all this add up to? It adds up to the fact that the issue of Turkey’s accession to the EU is irrelevant to the decision we are going to take on 23 June. There is no way in which, if we decide to remain in the EU, we can be compelled against our will to close a single one of those chapters. In the meanwhile it might be sensible to stop insulting a country which is an important NATO ally, whose cooperation in the fight against the so-called Islamic State is essential, and which is already helping to relieve the pressure on the whole of Europe from illegal immigration.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

3 Responses to “Turkey: the big lie”

  • I strongly respect Lord Hannay of Chiswick’s contribution to the pro EU sentiment which should underpin the decision to vote remain. He is not wrong to suggest that BREXIT should deal with Turkish Accession to the EU more objectively. However, our need for Turkey, as a NATO member, to put on the ground against Daesh boots that we are too cowardly to call up should not mask a dichotomy.

    Turkey, if not yet ready to join the EU and back-classed further by recent disavowals of EU founding principles, is still fit to be in NATO is it? What exactly are NATO members meant to defend if not EU founding values?

    If Turkey joins the EU it will no longer be European and it will not be a Union. That day may be far away but Lord Hannay should confer with Baroness Falkner of Margravine on her questions when David Lidington was before the Lords EU Select Committee on 19.04.16. She is a respectable quarter from which to express doubts added to which she does a very effective job as Chair of the EU Select Committee’s Financial Affairs Sub Committee.

    Nor should, with great respect, Lord Hannay overlook that Turkey has sought to leverage its advantages by holding out the risk of its default on the EU migrant deal to obtain visa free travel into the Schengen zone. After having had their boots licked by Angela Merkel on this account, they sacked Prime Minister Davotoglu and were emboldened in their depradations on Nagorno Karabakh.

  • There doesn’t seem to have been much comment generally on the Conservative Friends of Turkey group who have a splendid website: cfot.org.uk

    Its stated 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”

    The “Founder Members” tab is rather interesting, containing among the assorted brethren: “…Douglas Carswell MP…Daniel Hannan MEP…Boris Johnson MP, former Mayor of London…” Note the latter, clearly up-dated very recently.

    Assuming this isn’t a spoof site, I wonder if any of them would like to comment on how they square the circle of CFOT and the big lie, as called-out above.