Before the virtual ink had dried on my last post, the campaign for the UK to leave the EU produced their biggest and, so far, most pernicious, lie with the launch of a poster stating: “Turkey (population 76 million) is joining the EU”. The idea – signalled in the population figure – is to whip up fears of Turkish – meaning Muslim – immigration to the UK.
The lie is that Turkey is not joining the EU. They applied to do so in 1987 but negotiations did not start until 2005. Joining requires the opening and closing of 35 ‘chapters’ or areas of agreement, of which so far only 15 have been opened and just one closed. Turkey is nowhere near to joining the EU and in any case its joining could be vetoed by any member state and almost certainly would be. In some ways it is further than ever from joining because of its deteriorating human rights and democracy record. And, for that matter, Turkey itself is far less interested in EU membership than in the past: its longstanding failure to join has led it to reposition itself strategically away from Europe and towards being a middle-eastern regional power.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on Turkey or its EU negotiations, but the expert opinion is clear, as in this recent summary:“To infer that Turkey may one day soon join the EU is to reveal a fundamental ignorance of the political and procedural realities of the EU and of its enlargement process. Turkish membership of the EU is at best a distant prospect.”
Reading – as, sadly, I do – many internet discussion forums about the EU Referendum it was interesting and depressing to see how the lie that ‘Turkey is joining the EU’ was defended. One line was to say – mendaciously – that the recent deal by ‘Germany’ to give Turks visa-free access to the Schengen zone meant that they had ‘free movement rights’. It doesn’t (three month visa-free travel is not the same as free movement) and, anyway, the deal may not go ahead because it is not ‘Germany’ that decides but the democratically elected EU Parliament which is blocking or at least modifying the deal which, for that matter, Turkey may not accept. And even if this were to happen then, of course, it would not mean that Turkish membership of the EU was any closer.
Another line of defence was downright peculiar. It was that ‘joining’ is the present continuous tense and therefore the poster was true since Turkey was ‘in the process’ of joining. This kind of sophistry gives sophistry a bad name. If I say that ‘I am joining the campaign to leave the EU’ any reasonable person would think that means that it is going to happen, not that I am in a process that might or might not end in the future in me becoming a member of the campaign.
The wider context for this anti-immigrant sentiment associated with a supposedly anti-elitist movement is the well-worn theme of how the consequences of economic crisis play out. It never has a happy ending, not least for the ‘ordinary, salt of the earth folk’ that the anti-elite elitists play for fools in the way that the Brexit advocates are currently trying to do. For their goal is not to help, sustain and support ‘ordinary people’ in the face of global capitalism, but to expose them to the most extreme form of unregulated global capitalism. Those who fall for it are voting, like the proverbial Turkeys, for Christmas.