The dark side of Leave upsets even the Mail on Sunday

On Friday, the official Leave campaign released a deeply unpleasant video suggesting that Turkey is on the brink of joining the EU. Lib Dem Peer Meral Hussein-Ece was horrified:

This is more desperation from Brexit and Project Fear. This is a xenophobic attack from a leave campaign that knows it is losing the debate. Stigmatising Turkey and the people who live there is a dangerous move which comes from the propaganda playbooks of 100 years ago.

One of the great things about the EU is that it encourages us to work together; instead the leave campaign are offering a world of division and distrust. This is not a future we should be fighting for.

Boris Johnson knows that Turkey won’t be joining the EU any time soon; they have been a candidate since 1987 and have only met one target of the 36 stipulated by the EU. Yet again Boris has recklessly made up new ‘facts’ on the spot.

You have to wonder if there’s a myth that Boris won’t promote in the run-up to the referendum, from the bogus £350 million a week figure to his bizarre comments that you can’t buy bananas in bunches of more than three.

Boris needs to remember that he will long be associated with the Leave campaign and all the nasty scaremongering, scapegoating stuff on immigration that it spews out. Only two months ago, he said quite openly on his Call Boris show on LBC that it was unlikely that Turkey would join the EU.

Leave seems quite happy to echo the disgraceful stomach-turning xenophobia that rose to the surface in UKIP’s February anti-Turkey video that the Liberal Democrats reported to OFCOM

The unofficial campaign, led by Nigel Farage, Leave.EU, has reportedly been targeting Facebook advertising at people who like sickening far-right organisations as Britain First, the BNP and the EDL. From the Sunday Times (£):

Leave.EU used the social media site to direct adverts at users who had shown an interest in the British National party, National Front, Britain First and the English Defence League.

Pro-EU politicians said that the behaviour of Leave.EU, which is funded by the millionaire Ukip donor Arron Banks, was “beyond the pale”.

Tim Farron accused them of “trawling the dark corners of the internet”:

“It is staggering that major players in the ‘leave’ campaign have been trawling the dark corners of the internet to bring people to their cause. No view is too odious for them to try and play on prejudice and court support.

When your scapegoating and scaremongering gets too much for the Mail on Sunday, you must know that you are in a very dark place indeed. An editorial in the paper today says:

So far in this campaign, the more the Leave campaign’s arguments have been subjected to the stress test of national debate, the weaker they have looked.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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34 Comments

  • If we stay in the EU, Turkey will be a co-member in 5-10 years.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 22nd May '16 - 1:53pm

    David, You have absolutely no evidence to back that up at all. Turkey doesn’t meet the requirements and there is no prospect of them becoming a full member in the foreseeable future.

  • Barry Snelson 22nd May '16 - 2:18pm

    Caron,
    I’m not sure the status is as binary as you suggest. The EU are already ‘discussing’ visa free travel. Currently a bit stalled but maybe the EU demands may soften a little if Erdogan ships a few more hundred thousand migrants onto Kos.
    Turkey is the key to Europe’s immigration crisis and they know it. The certainties of former years may no longer be a guide to future decisions.

  • paul barker 22nd May '16 - 2:22pm

    One of the very few good things about UKIP is the way they have sucked the life out of traditional British Faschism, theres no doubt however that the Brexit campaign has allowed a lot of extremists to come out of the woodwork. I wouldnt rule out a return of violence as the Referendum approaches.

  • Peter Watson 22nd May '16 - 3:42pm

    “Only two months ago, he said quite openly on his Call Boris show on LBC that it was unlikely that Turkey would join the EU.”
    I find this debate increasingly confusing.
    In 2012 Nick Clegg said, ” I have long seen the case for Turkish entry into the EU as a strategic necessity.” (https://www.libdemvoice.org/nick-clegg-turkish-entry-into-the-eu-is-a-strategic-necessity-30574.html).
    And in 2010 David Cameron said, “I’m here to make the case for Turkey’s membership of the EU. And to fight for it.” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-10767768)
    So why is it silly for the Brexiters to worry about Turkey joining the EU if those leading the campaign to remain are so enthusiastic about it?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 22nd May '16 - 3:46pm

    The fact remains that Turkey doesn’t qualify for EU membership so it’s a moot point. They aren’t going to be in any time soon, regardless of whether people think it’s desirable or not.

  • Tony Greaves 22nd May '16 - 4:24pm

    There are a few member states that will veto Turkey’s membership, rightly or wrongly, without our help. The way Turkey is going the prospect of membership recedes into the far future. The interesting thing is whether the outbreak of xenophobia amongst the Leavers will cause a backlash against them as such moves have tended to do with the Tories. Their ever more desperate arguments certainly suggest that they think they are losing.

  • Bill le Breton 22nd May '16 - 4:47pm

    Quite a lot of opinion here, so thought we ought to be reminded of the most recent opinion of the Commission staff in Nov 15:
    http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/key_documents/2015/20151110_report_turkey.pdf

  • As someone firmly in the leave camp. it doesn’t bother me whether Turkey joins or does not. To me the argument that some bad people are anti EU is no reason to vote remain. IMO some bad people are in the remain camp and it’s also irrelevant to the debate.

  • Peter Watson 22nd May '16 - 6:25pm

    @Caron “The fact remains that Turkey doesn’t qualify for EU membership so it’s a moot point.”
    But is it really moot when senior UK politicians believe Turkey’s membership is a “necessity” that they will “fight for”? After all, the referendum is about the sort of UK and EU we want to see in the future, not just what it looks like now.
    Equally confusing for me today is those in favour of remaining in the EU indicating that Turkey is not fit to become a member while simultaneously accusing the Brexiters of “stigmatising Turkey”.
    I know little about Turkey, it is just the latest example of referendum campaigning that leaves me saying, “a plague on both your houses”.
    A few months ago I would have voted “Remain” without thinking. As the debate has progressed I have been increasingly put off by the negative Remain campaign but I can’t bring myself to side with Johnson, Farage et al. My current inclination is to either toss a coin or to spoil my ballot paper by writing “Don’t Know”!

  • There’s an air of unreality about all this. The Tories and Lib Dems have been pushing hard for Turkish accession for years (Nick Clegg declared it was not only highly desirable but a “necessity”). Yet by responding to Leave’s argument by saying, effectively, “don’t worry, there is no prospect of Turkey meeting the entry requirements” smacks of pandering to the same “xenophobia” the Leave campaign is supposedly tapping in to.

    If there’s no problem with Turkey, why aren’t Lib Dems putting forward a positive argument for Turkey to join, as they were doing while in government?

    “Leave seems quite happy to echo the disgraceful stomach-turning xenophobia that rose to the surface in UKIP’s February anti-Turkey video that the Liberal Democrats reported to OFCOM.”

    It should be noted that Ofcom swiftly rejected the complaint, saying there was no basis even for a proper investigation.

  • Turkey should be allowed to join as long as they comport with the rules of EU. I don’t think that many people in this party would be opposed to the accession of a secular democratic Turkey that recognises the Armenian genocide and has negotiated a settlement regarding Northern Cyprus.

    UKIP, perhaps not intentionally, exposed the real reason why Project Fear stands against Turkish accession. I don’t see that many people worrying about the future accession of 93% Orthodox Christian Moldova, after all.

  • Stevan Rose 22nd May '16 - 7:11pm

    Germany and France oppose Turkish entry. Greece and Cyprus would veto. You need unanimity of 28 member states. It is impossible. Iceland probably if they want in, Montenegro maybe, Macedonia and Albania possibly, Serbia unlikely, Turkey not a chance. There are some doubts that Turks actually want to join given what they would need to compromise on in social matters. Why Clegg, Cameron, and others including Johnson in the past, routinely back Turkish entry is beyond me but you can say nice things to gain favour as long as there is no chance of it ever happening. Turkey isn’t ready, nothing against Turkey, they just aren’t.

    There’s an opportunity here for Remain. Promise (a) a referendum on whether to veto Turkish entry should it ever threaten to come true or (b) a fresh referendum on whether to leave or remain in the unlikely event of Turkish entry. This would kill the Brexit Turkey argument instantly – a guarantee it cannot happen without majority consent. A guarantee that would never be called on. This is a general point. Leave and we’re out forever, no way back if we’ve made a dreadful mistake. Remain and our option to leave at some future point is still there should any scare story about remaining ever come true.

    While we’re on scare tactics Remain are not innocent of ludicrous claims including an increased risk of World War 3, ISIS support Brexit, and now your house value will slump. These undermine credibility which makes you wonder exactly which side Osbourne in particular is on.

    Where did we think the BNP vote disappeared to if not to UKIP! So hardly a surprise they’re targeting that group.

  • Turkey has already shown it can get what it wants from the EU.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd May '16 - 9:03pm

    France is already committed, by law, to a referendum on Turkish entry.

  • Richard Underhill 22nd May '16 - 9:08pm

    How likely is it that Turkey would ever agree to freedom of religion?
    Their incoming PM is supporting the Presidential ambitions.

  • Stevan: Germany actually want Turkey to join the EU. Hence all the overtures to Turkey like the Bundestag breaking the law and refusing to give the Armenian Genocide bill a second reading, or that comedian being arrested for satirising Erdogan.

  • Interesting that Johnson used to campaign for Turkey to be admitted to the EU and that reconnecting the two halves of the old Roman empire was a great mission. Amazing what personal ambition can do to a man of high principle with a Churchill complex.

  • Meral Hussein Ece 22nd May '16 - 11:04pm

    The fact that successive governments have supported Turkey’s EU accession, doesn’t mean it is about to join in the next decade. Just 1/36 Chapters have been completed since 1987. The other Chapters remain closed. I’ve yet to speak to any Turk, in the UK or In Turkey who believes Turkey will join. Encouraging Turkey over the years to reform and harmonise with the EU was the right thing to do. It’s only since the Syrian refugee crisis that EU talks are back on the agenda. But with France, Germany & Austria opposing, and the requirement that all member states would have to agree on enlargement, it remains extremely unlikely, and is being cynically used by Vote Leave to generate xenophobia and racism. Remember Farage’s bogus 5m Rumanians who were heading this way? Labelling Turks as a nation of criminals is a disgrace.

  • Stevan Rose
    “Increased risk of World War 3” – Cameron didn’t actually say that at all, that was how Boris decided to interpret his words! And in any case, don’t you believe that the EU and its predecessors were created to lessen risk of European War? Because they were. The weakening of any diplomatic arrangements, which Brexit would be, surely make war, even if over a length of time, more likely?

    Not a scare story, I am afraid – just reality.

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd May '16 - 12:22am

    According to Comres in March 50% of Brits oppose Turkey joining the EU and 18% support.

    Interesting to see how much Leave’s scaremongering might affect things.

    The video was bad taste, but bringing up videos of Cameron supporting Turkey-EU membership is fair game and actually the official British position is still to support it (lol).

    I’ve said before that the Liberal Democrats should come out against Turkey-EU membership in principle, never mind if they meet the ascension criteria. It’s not the Civil Service who decide British foreign policy. They just advise us and it would be mayhem if Turkey joined the EU anytime soon.

  • Theres an interesting article on Labour Uncut arguing that so far The Remain Campaign has actually been very succsessful, forcing Leave to almost abandon the Economy to us.

  • Katerina Porter 23rd May '16 - 1:16pm

    Turkey started applying, what? 30 years ago, and one reason for refusal was the Human Rights situation. This was much improved until Erdogan changed tack. Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe and NATO.

  • The entrenched views within Greece and Cyprus will mean unanimity will never happen whatever the UK, France or Germany feel….

  • The wider point is we are still living through an almost entirely negative campaign. I suspect partly that is due to the lack of Lib Dems in the Commons (with their traditional rational approach to the EU) and partly because it is so easy for both sides to engage in a tit for tat war of words.

    I did receive an email from the Labour Party (addressed to Dear #Firstname !!! I’ve been getting them ever since I signed a petition against Fox Hunting clearly without my first name). This did talk up the positives of membership but other than that it has been a depressing campaign that I am beginning to fear the worst from… Fear recently won an election for the Tories and it may yet win this referendum.

  • Peter: I have no problem with a secular and democratic Turkey joining the EU. Brexiteers are incredibly scared of Muslims having opinions and the vote, though.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd May '16 - 4:34pm

    Cameron did not actually say he would use the veto, only that the UK has one. The French position will be decided by their electorate after a referendum.
    “The fact that successive governments have supported Turkey’s EU accession, doesn’t mean it is about to join in the next decade” agree the logic but it is difficult to set a date when it is moving away.

  • Stevan Rose 23rd May '16 - 8:34pm

    “Germany actually want Turkey to join the EU. Hence all the overtures to Turkey like the Bundestag breaking the law and refusing to give the Armenian Genocide bill a second reading, or that comedian being arrested for satirising Erdogan.”

    Merkel said a week ago that Turkish accession is not on the agenda. Merkel knows her electorate and her migrant / visa deal is about to collapse. Deutsche Welle is reporting today that the Bundestag will vote on whether to reinstate the term genocide on 2nd June. German law prohibits insulting any foreign head of state, the Turks complained, the law had to be upheld. Democratic governments don’t interfere with due process. That law will likely be repealed, the comedian is unlikely to face any punishment and it has backfired on Turkey, illustrating why they are unfit for EU membership.

    “don’t you believe that the EU and its predecessors were created to lessen risk of European War? Because they were. The weakening of any diplomatic arrangements, which Brexit would be, surely make war, even if over a length of time, more likely?”

    Of course the origin of the EU is a matter of fact, but the UK leaving now will have zero impact on the probability of war and it is ridiculous to suggest otherwise. The breakup of NATO might threaten peace but that’s not on the cards.

    Secularism and democracy and impeccable human rights are vital but it is also about the economic drain Turkey would cause. No new member should cause a significant detrimental economic impact on existing members.

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Jun '16 - 9:07pm

    Sarah Noble 22nd May ’16 – 10:06pm “Germany actually want Turkey to join the EU. Hence all the overtures to Turkey like the Bundestag breaking the law and refusing to give the Armenian Genocide bill a second reading, or that comedian being arrested for satirising Erdogan.”
    On 3/6/2016 the “i” newspaper reported on page 23 that “A berlin parliamentary motion, designed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 1915-1916 slaughter, was almost unanimously approved by German MPs.”
    The headline is “Furious Turkey recalls its envoy to Berlin after Armenian genocide vote”.
    There is no suggestion that the former Ottoman Empire was a democracy, nor a member of the EU or the Council of Europe, nor a member of NATO, which did not exist.
    During World War One the Ottoman Empire was allied with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There were important changes of frontier after WW1. Ataturk became President of postwar Turkey.
    The Leave side in the EU referendum is being extremely irresponsible.

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