Turkey’s bid to join the European Union (EU) has been described as a “game changer” as polling reveals that as many as a quarter of Brits currently planning to vote to remain within the European Union might change their minds if the Middle Eastern country is allowed to join the 28 member bloc.
Turkey is currently in “talks” with the EU over the best way to stem the flow of migrants northwards into Europe. More than 143,000 migrants have travelled to Greece by boat so far in 2016; the vast majority departing from Turkey’s western coastline just miles from numerous Greek islands in the Aegean Sea.
Consequently, Turkey now holds the whip hand in the negotiations. Ankara is now demanding a whopping €6 billion to fund services for refugees, up from €3 billion negotiated last year, plus membership of the open-borders Schengen Zone from this summer and fast-tracked accession talks on Turkish membership of the European Union.
If granted, the situation could change the face of the debate on British membership of the European Union, just as the British people head to the polls to decide whether they want to remain in the EU or leave.
In a Survation poll, one in three Brits overall have said that they would be more likely to vote to leave if Turkey was handed membership, the Daily Express has reported.
And of those currently planning to vote to remain, 24 per cent said they would be much more likely to change their minds and vote to leave if there was political union with Turkey. With the two campaigns at near level pegging, a swing of that magnitude could result in victory for those wanting to see a Brexit.
The result is likely to be due to immigration concerns, as Turkish accession to the EU would mean the right to travel throughout member states looking for work would be handed to 77 million Turks.
Arron Banks, the co-founder of anti-Brussels campaign group Leave. EU, which commissioned the poll, said: “Turkey is a game changer and this poll clearly shows that voters agree.
“Britain’s upcoming referendum on EU membership is a vote on whether the UK wants to enter a political union with Turkey and open its borders to another 77 million people.
“My response to that is no thanks, which is why I and millions of others who share my concern will be voting to leave the EU during the forthcoming referendum.”
But Turkish membership poses further risks that immigration alone. It could also pose a heightened security threat to the rest of the UK thanks to its geographical proximity to Islamic State, as Amnesty International unwittingly admitted while criticising the deal currently being struck by EU and Turkish diplomats.
While slamming a “one in, one out” policy currently being considered to end illegal travel by boat into the EU, Amnesty International Secretary General Salil Shetty told Reuters: “They are saying it does not breach EU law because Turkey is a safe country. By what stretch of the imagination is Turkey a safe country for these people?”
Amnesty has pointed out that the area near the Syrian border is particularly dangerous, thanks to ongoing fighting between Turkish and Kurdish forces, and Islamic State.
Indeed it is. The border is also severely porous, allowing Islamic State to import weapons and run oil and antiquities across the border for profit; a situation which drew comment from President Obama back in December – during a press conference Q&A he said: “ground forces on the Turkish side of the border can do a much better job of sealing the border.”
However, there is one further issue with Turkish accession, which is less commonly noted. Seats in the European Parliament are allocated in proportion to the population of each country, meaning that Turkey’s 77 million strong population would entitle its representatives to 82 seats in the Parliament, equal only to Germany’s representation.
Speaking to ITV this morning, UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage alluded to this issue, saying: “If we vote to remain within the European Union we’ll finish up in a political union with open borders with Turkey.”
If we vote to Remain in the EU we’ll finish up having open borders with Turkey.https://t.co/uxARuonwY5
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) March 14, 2016
The point was made more forcefully by a Danish newspaper, which last year commented: “the demographic and Islamic threat [posed by Turkish membership] is nothing compared to the frightening political power [that] Turkey would be able to impose on European legislation if accepted as a member of the EU”.