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UKIP delight in Turkish scaremongering

by Luke Lythgoe | 09.02.2016

A storm of criticism over UKIP’s party political broadcast about Turkey focussed on its alleged racism. But the video is also factually misleading.

UKIP entitled its broadcast: “The risks of staying in the EU: No 1 – Turkey joins in 2020?” Later on it asserted that  “as many as 15 million migrants could leave for Europe within the first 10 years of EU membership”. Both claims are fanciful.

UKIP doesn’t say where it got its 2020 timeframe. But it’s possible it has picked the earliest theoretically possible date. After all, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker froze further EU enlargement for five years in 2014.

But just because the date 2020 is theoretically possible doesn’t mean it is remotely likely. Turkey’s EU integration, which can be traced back to 1959, has been the most tortuous in EU history and remains nowhere near completion.

To join the union, candidate countries must satisfy the Commission that they have adopted European policies in 35 “chapters”. Since applying for full membership to the then European Economic Community in 1987, Turkey has managed to close only one chapter – science and research. Talks haven’t even opened on 20 chapters.

Before Turkey can close the chapters it has to solve many of the issues raised in UKIP’s video. The Commission recognised this in a 2015 report, highlighting concerns on “discrimination against women and gender-based violence”, and “backsliding” on freedom of expression, media and the internet.

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Even if Turkey opens and closes all 35 chapters – which is far from certain – all existing EU members would have to approve. Both the UK government and the Houses of Parliament would have a veto – meaning UKIP’s contention that Turkey could join without the British people having a say is disingenuous. In sum, it will be a long time if ever before Turkey belongs to the bloc.

What about UKIP’s other contention – that 15 million Turks could leave for Europe within a decade of membership? That also seems most unlikely given that David Cameron persuaded the EU to adopt a new strategy for admitting new members in 2014. This provides for “transitional measures and/or a safeguard mechanism on the free movement of workers” – which probably means that, even after becoming a member, there would be a long period before Turks were allowed to move freely across the EU. What’s more, if the UK still didn’t like the deal negotiated, it could veto it.

UKIP didn’t respond to queries

Edited by Hugo Dixon

One Response to “UKIP delight in Turkish scaremongering”

  • The last three accession treaties all had seven-year waiting periods for free movement of workers. The UK has a veto over accession treaties and so could insist on an even longer wait for Turkey.