It appears that David Cameron may have fibbed a bit when he said that one of the most contentious issues behind the Brexit campaign, namely the treatment of Turkish EU membership, won't be a topic for "decades" and that Turkey won't join the EU until the year 3000. As AFP reports, “The EU will open new membership talks with Turkey as planned in a few days, EU diplomatic sources said Wednesday, just as Ankara’s accession becomes a hot-button issue in Britain’s vote on its future in the bloc." Citing a source, who asked not to be named, AFP said that EU member states will meet June 30 to agree to open a new negotiating chapter with Turkey.
This means that just days after the Leave campaign may end up winning the Brexit referendum based on the PM's promise that a Turkish admission into the EU is off the table, the topic of Turkish ascension will once again be front and center, and as we explain below, Turkey will likely end up getting what it wants.
As UK's Express writes, "the latest announcement will fuel fears EU officials are trying to keep any visa deal with Turkey secret until after the historic referendum. Turkey’s membership of the bloc has been a hot topic of the Brexit debate as critics press Mr Cameron on whether he would use Britain’s right to veto their entry or not. Brexit supporters have said the UK faces the arrival of millions of Turks if it chose to stay in the EU."
However, the Prime Minister said there is no prospect of Turkey becoming a member anytime soon. His comments came after audience member Michael Tindale asked Mr Cameron if he would “veto the accession of Turkey into the EU”.
The Prime Minister, who has been a long-time supporter of Turkey joining the union, brushed off concerns, replying: “I don't think it's going to happen for decades, so as far as I'm concerned the question doesn't arise."
Turkey has been negotiating for membership for more than a decade. The EU promised to allow Turks visa-free travel for stays lasting up to three months to the bloc’s Schengen area, of which the UK is not a member. It comes as Turkey’s foreign minister waded into the debate head first saying Britain must stay in the bloc “under any circumstances”.
Meanwhile, Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey “desires Britain to stay in the EU under any circumstances. He added: "Britain’s exit would certainly have a negative impact.” Cameron has previously been a strong supporter of Ankara’s struggles to join the EU. Just two years ago, Mr Cameron himself, said: “In terms of Turkish membership of the EU, I very much support that.”
And in 2010 the Prime Minister urged France and Germany not to shut them “out of the club” in 2010. Turkey applied for membership in 1987 and began accession talks with Brussels in 2005.
For Turkey to qualify it will have to fulfil the criteria set out in the accession treaty between Turkey and the European Commission. The accession treaty sets conditions Turkey must meet before member states vote to decided on its entry. All 28 member states must agree unanimously.
And since Turkey continues to hold the trump card over Merkel, namely the threat of once again releasing millions of refugees into central Europe where they will promptly gravitate toward Germany, jeopardising Merkel's polls, Turkey will almost surely end up getting what it wants. Sadly for UK voters, however, the referendum will be long gone.