Britain is unable to stop Turkey from becoming a member of the European Union (EU), the Minister of State for the Armed Forces has said. She predicted that a million Turks could come to the UK unless Britain leaves the EU, and agreed that the EU referendum is an “establishment stitch-up”.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr, Penny Mordaunt said it was “very likely” that a million Turkish migrants would come to the UK over the next eight years if the British public opt to stay within the EU, in part because of the “migrant crisis.”
Mordaunt pointed out that “The Home Secretary [Theresa May], herself a Remainer, made a speech earlier in the campaign that pointed to – or questioning the merits of the EU expanding and having a land border with Syria, Iraq and Iran.”
And she denied that the British people had a veto on whether Turkey joins, saying “We are not going to be able to have a say.”
Although the British government does have a veto on Turkey joining the EU, Mordaunt made it clear that the British people would not be consulted specifically on the matter, saying: “this is a matter for the British people I think to decide and the only shot that they will get at expressing a view on this is in this referendum.”
As the Prime Minister David Cameron has made it clear that he welcomes Turkey joining the EU, Ms Mordaunt’s suggestion is that the veto would go unused, against the will of the British people.
She agreed with Mr Marr’s suggestion that the EU referendum is turning out to be “an establishment stitch up.”
Her comments directly contradict those of David Cameron, who has insisted that Turkey will not be joining the EU any time soon. Slapping down Ms Mordaunt yesterday, he joked that it will be the year 3,000 before Turkey is able to join.
“It is not remotely on the cards that Turkey is going to join the EU any time soon,” he told ITV’s Robert Peston shortly after Mordaunt’s interview.
“They applied in 1987. At the current rate of progress they will probably get round to joining in about the year 3000 according to the latest forecasts.”
But his current position represents something of a U-turn. Officially, the government supports Turkish accession, a position which a Downing Street spokesman confirmed this morning has not changed.
But Mr Cameron’s spokesman added: “The Prime Minister has made it clear that he would veto any new country joining the EU if it wasn’t in Britain’s interests” – a statement which suggests the Prime Minister is attempting to muddy the waters on Turkish membership ahead of the referendum.
Leave campaigners have asked why, if the government is likely to veto Turkey joining the EU, we are contributing to Brussels spending £2 billion on helping Ankara to prepare their application.
“If it isn’t on the cards why are taxpayers footing the bill for it already?” a spokesman for the official Leave campaign said.
“As with so much in the referendum the remain campaign are saying one thing now before the vote but are planning for the exact opposite after 23 June.”
Commenting, former Foreign Secretary Lord Owen added: “Only 9 weeks ago David Cameron committed the country at the European Council to re-energise the accession process of Turkey into the EU. The EU is continuing the preparatory work for Turkey at an accelerating pace with all of this going forward in parallel.”