Vote Leave: stop offending Turkish people to further your own agenda

Vote Leave's xenophobic comments about Turkish people are misleading referendum voters by claiming that they are joining the EU, when this possibility is highly unlikely 

Thomas Baron
Monday 13 June 2016 12:24 BST
Vote Leave is claiming on its posters that Turkey is joining the EU
Vote Leave is claiming on its posters that Turkey is joining the EU (PA)

The Turkish people, the Vote Leave campaign claims, are on their way, armed to the teeth and ready to bankrupt the country’s public services.

“Turkey (population 76 million) Is Joining the EU” the new poster from the campaign claims, with a picture of a United Kingdom and Northern Ireland passport as an open door. Not “could be” joining the EU, “is” joining the EU.

Westminster will be unable to do a thing about it unless the country stands up and, in their words, “takes back control”.

Penny Mordaunt - 'The UK can't veto Turkey joining EU'

Any expert on the European Union and international relations will tell you that the prospect of Ankara joining the EU any time soon is slim to none. The country is far from close to meeting the 35 standards required for membership and still their ascension would need to be unanimously approved by all members. To add the recent claims of President Erdogan that “we’re going our way, you go yours,” and the chances become slimmer.

The Leave campaign has little concern for this reality, however. They are falling behind in the polls as experts and the President of the United States warn that the UK outside the EU lacks the power to negotiate its own trade agreements and could see huge economic fallout from going in alone. All that’s left is reckless tactics aimed at exploiting Britain’s xenophobic underbelly and 19th century depiction of Turks as, in Mark Twains words, “by nature and training filthy, brutish, ignorant”.

In a video released by the group on Friday they show Cameron claiming that membership was “not remotely on the cards,” followed by a video from 2010 in which he proudly claims he was to “pave the road from Ankara to Brussels,” to portray him as at best a flip-flopper, and at worse a liar, actively misleading the public.

“If you want to save the NHS,” the Leave video declares, “Vote Leave.”

But the true message of the video isn’t one of protectionism for the country’s services and resources. In the background the video shows footage of Turkish MPs brawling in parliament during a debate about changes to the nation’s constitution that would strip MPs of their parliamentary immunity. It’s unclear what this has to do with the strain on the UK’s NHS or the issue of overpopulation.

David Cameron responds to Penny Mourdant's comments on Andy Marr's show

The message that the Turkish people are inherently criminal, uncontrollable, and dangerous is not just a message hinted at in a video. Talking about Turkish membership, as well as the potential for Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia joining the EU, Penny Mordaunt, the Armed Forces Minister, said “Many of these countries have high crime rates, problems with gangs and terror cells as well as challenging levels of poverty.”

The tabloids arguably summarised this position best. "Vote Leave: Murderers and Terrorists from Turkey will head to UK.”

Vote Leave isn’t shooting in the dark with this new strategy. A poll carried out by Survation of 2000 people commissioned by Leave.EU found that over a third of Britons would be more likely to vote to leave if Turkey was to become a member of the EU. The poll doesn’t go into details as to why people feel this way, but the Express gave a hint when they used an image of a woman in a burqa fashioned from the EU flag to portray the point – an odd choice as Turkish women don’t traditionally wear the burqa and headscarves are banned for women in public jobs under Ankara’s secular constitution.

There are a number of reasons to be concerned about the potential for Turkey joining the EU. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has become increasingly authoritative, cracking down on free press and his political opposition through a number of regressive policies. As Patrick Cockburn wrote, the inclusion would also extend the EUs border deep into the Middle East and include the conflicts of the Middle East in its territory as the Turkish army and the PKK continue their long running guerrilla war.

It is for these reasons and more, however, that Turkish membership is unlikely to be completed at any time in the next few years, let alone by the end of the decade. The leave campaign are not only misleading the British people about this fact, but are stoking the embers of xenophobia in British society and helping to normalise some of the country’s most insidious traditions.

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