Dear Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary,
We all agree that it is vital that everyone is clear about the facts in the European Union referendum. With a week to go before the public cast their votes on 23rd June, it is essential that voters are fully informed about Turkish accession to the EU.
The IN campaign maintains that there is no prospect of Turkey joining the EU. Some IN campaigners have claimed that Turkish accession will not happen ‘until the year 3000’. Others have asserted that Turkish accession is not ‘on the cards’. These claims are in conflict with official Government policy and that of the European Union.
It is Government policy that Turkey should join the European Union and ‘to pave the road from Ankara to Brussels.’ It is Government policy that the United Kingdom is the ‘strongest possible advocate of Turkish accession’ and that Turkish accession will make the UK ‘more secure’ and ‘richer’, the same argument the Government makes for why the UK must remain in the European Union. That Government policy on Turkey remains the same was confirmed by the Minister for Europe to the House of Commons during the referendum campaign.
It is also the policy of the European Union that Turkey should join the EU. In March, the Heads of Government unanimously agreed that the EU should ‘re-energise the accession process’ and that Turkish acceleration should be ‘accelerated’. The European Commission has confirmed that this is its policy on several occasions since, most recently on 15 June. The new building in which the European Council will sit is specifically designed to accommodate more members of the European Union. There are enough translation booths to accommodate the five current candidate countries, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. Official designs show that the European Council table itself will have a seat for the President of Turkey.
It is also a fact that both the European Union and the United Kingdom are paying billions to Turkey in order to facilitate its accession. The EU is paying €17.7 billion to Albania, Serbia, Turkey, Macedonia and Montenegro to join the EU. The UK is paying almost £1.8 billion to these five countries to join.
On Sunday it was revealed that the Government is actively considering granting approximately 1 million Turkish citizens visa-free travel to the UK. The Government admitted this was ‘a risk’. The Government also described the possibility of visa-free access for ‘1.8 million Kosovars’ to be ‘a drop in that larger ocean’ and noted the Commission was planning to ‘slipstream’ Kosovo ‘behind Turkey’.
Just this week, the United Kingdom Government dropped its objections to the opening of another chapter, on financial and budgetary issues. It is expected that formal talks could begin as early as 24 June 2016, the day after the public will vote on whether to remain in the European Union or to take back control. On 15 June, the Commission confirmed the accuracy of this report, stating talks could begin ‘by end of June’.
Despite the rapidly accelerating pace of accession negotiations, IN campaigners maintain that Turkey ‘is not an issue in this referendum and it shouldn’t be.’ Others assert that the UK has ‘a veto’ on Turkish accession. This claim is obviously artificial given the Government’s commitment to Turkish accession at the earliest possible opportunity. They also insist that this is the public’s last opportunity to have a say on Europe in our lifetimes.
In light of the above, voters will want to know the answer to two questions:
Is it Government policy 1) to veto the accession of Turkey to the European Union and the continuation of accession talks, and 2) to stop the extension of visa-free travel to Turkey, planned for this year?
If the Government cannot give this guarantee, the public will draw the reasonable conclusion that the only way to avoid having common borders with Turkey is to Vote Leave and take back control on 23 June.
Finally can you confirm whether it is Government policy not to seek any further reforms of EU ‘free movement’ laws and regulations?
Michael Gove MP
Boris Johnson MP
Gisela Stuart MP