Leaked cables between British diplomats and ministers outline a proposal to grant visa-free access to the UK to up to 1.5 million Turks, the plan intended to be kept under wraps until AFTER the 23 June referendum.
The Sunday Times also reported that the five leaked documents also suggests that EU officials are attempting to keep any visa deal with Turkey concealed until after the referendum. The cables were confirmed as genuine by Downing Street.
According to The Sunday Times, in a cable to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 5 May, Janet Douglas, the Deputy Head of Mission in Turkey, wrote: “Should [EU] visa liberalisation be granted, we will need to develop our own lines on the UK’s stance to visa-free travel for Turks” as a “significant and symbolic gesture to Turkey”.
Ms. Douglas went on to warn that without the EU deal on visa liberalisation:
“An impetuous and riled Erdoğan — prone to come out fighting when he feels betrayed — could carry through his threat to ‘open the floodgates’ to Europe for migrants”.
Ms. Douglas’s role as the Deputy Head of Mission in Turkey includes acting as a key advisor to the Ambassador, Richard Moore, and representing the UK’s interests in his absence; these discussions were being undertaken by figures at the highest level within the British diplomatic circle.
These cables are not limited solely to British diplomats representing the UK in Turkey. Another cable from Nick Pickard, the Deputy Head of Mission in Germany, reported on Erdogan’s desire for both “EU accession and visa liberalisation”.
Mr. Pickard stated that Uwe Corsepius, former Secretary General of the Council of the European Union and current European affairs adviser to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said he “was confident that the Commission, for their part, would avoid major escalation of tensions before the end of June”.
He quoted Mr. Corsepius as saying: “We can keep this under control” – presumably meaning that the plans would be suppressed until after the British people voted on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU) as any kind of Turkish visa liberation deal with the UK would impact the results significantly.
The Sunday Times also reports that a cable dated 20 May revealed that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has been warned by Europol, the EU’s law enforcement agency, that increasing migration could raise the terrorist threat:
“Europol…confirmed there was some emerging analysis linking migration with terrorism — for example, the false Syrian passports provided to the Paris bombers came from the same source as used by other smuggling networks.”
Downing Street issued a joint statement by Ms. May and Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, denying plans to open Britain’s borders:
“These are selectively leaked quotes from diplomatic telegrams designed to give a completely false impression that the UK is considering granting visa liberalisation to some Turkish citizens. That is completely untrue.
“The government’s policy is, and will remain, to maintain current visa requirements for all Turkish nationals wishing to visit the UK, regardless of what arrangements other member states in the Schengen area may make with Turkey.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly stated that he does not foresee Turkey joining fully the EU for decades, despite him, as far back as 2005, promising to “pave the road from Ankara to Brussels”, and “warmly welcoming the accession talks with Turkey” – in fact, complaining that progress had been “desperately slow”.
Should Britain vote to remain in the EU, the platitudes from EU leaders such as Mr. Cameron and accelerated membership will see a European Union dominated by Turkey in a matter of a few years – not a few decades.
Furthermore, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has become increasingly difficult and demanding in the months following the negotiation of the Turkey/EU migrant repatriation agreement, and has been accused of blackmailing EU leaders.
He has also threatened to pull the plug on the deal and “open the gates” to hundreds of thousands of migrants to Europe the should the EU fall short on any of his demands – including visa free travel for 70 million Turks by this summer. However, Turkey has yet to fulfil its own terms of the agreement – 72 in total – which include recognising Cyprus and freedom of the press.
The Turkey agreement would theoretically only affect only EU nations within the free-movement Schengen Zone, to which Britain does not belong. However, some would see these recent leaks from high-level British diplomats as a renege by David Cameron and his government that Britain would not be pulled into any free movement deals made with Turkey for millions of people.