This week, Prime Minister David Cameron reiterated his pledge to support the accession of Turkey, a comparatively poor country of over 80 million people, into the European Union. This is despite the fact that many in the UK, as well as other member states, vehemently oppose such a move.
Who is he trying to fool? Yes, Istanbul is a fascinating, modern, Western metropolis and many of us have enjoyed a holiday in Marmaris, but beyond that, Turkey is not in any other way European and the country as a whole does not share the same values as Europe.
President Erdogan is quickly taking a once proudly secular nation to the brink of Islamic conservatism and his increasingly authoritarian rule is marred by rioting and civil unrest that have lasted some 18 months. A recent report by Human Rights Watch suggested that there is a “rollback” of human rights following these protests. Along with increased government corruption of the judiciary, the freedom of the press has been severely curtailed whilst internet censorship is rife.
EU expansion, particularly since 2004 has been a disaster for the UK with our borders, job markets and benefits system opened up to citizens of new member states such as Poland and Romania. Latest figures from Migration Watch UK suggest that net-migration from the EU in the year to June 2014 stood at +142,000. If Turkey, a country that is arguably much poorer than many existing EU states were to join, then we would expect this figure to rise considerably.
EU membership would allow unemployed people in Turkey to travel freely to and seek work in any other EU member state. With an official figure of 2.98 million unemployed (unofficial estimates are as high as 5.5 million), the flow of migration will inevitably be towards job creating economies such as our own.
Let’s not forget that Turkey is currently home to some 1.6 million refugees, many from Syria and Iraq. I fear that as a new EU member state, Turkey would become the new gateway to Europe for an unprecedented number of refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East. As an EU member state, there would be very little stopping these refugees from moving freely within a passport-less Europe.
Moreover with only a tiny percentage of Turkey being geographically within Europe, allowing their membership would inevitably open the door to Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco who share the Mediterranean Sea. Where would it end?
However, whilst immigration is a serious concern of Turkish membership, my greatest concerns relate to UK national security, which will undoubtedly be put at increased risk. Recent EU enlargements have expanded the frontiers to Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova – not exactly ideal neighbours that’s for sure. However, with Turkey in the EU, the UK will have a shared, porous border with the likes of Syria and Iraq, and more chillingly, Islamic State.
Conservative estimates suggest that at least 500 British citizens are fighting for Islamic State in these countries, however I suspect that number is much higher. Many of those have travelled to Syria and Iraq by flying first to Turkey. Islamic State, backed by the sale of black market oil to the tune of up to $2 million a day, raised its black flag on the Turkish border earlier this year.
Granted with the EU right of free movement, coupled with the lack of political will from the Turkish government to tackle Islamic State, radicalised young Muslims would be free to come and go as they please. An open border with Turkey would also make it much easier for disillusioned, radicalised young girls, lured by social networking sites such as Twitter to become ‘Jihadi Wives’.
Turkey has been a key NATO ally for over 60 years but their recent attitude towards Islamic State is deeply worrying. Arguably, Turkey is the military power of the region with modern, well equipped armed forces with over 600,000 serving personnel. Yet, they are failing the Kurdish minority at the Syrian and Iraqi borders and have acted shamelessly during the brutal siege of Kobane that has seen over 300,000 civilians displaced.
With David Cameron reaffirming his position this week on the issue, this leaves UKIP as the only party that will act in the interests of the British people and firmly oppose Turkish membership of the European Union.