Will Turkey ever join the EU?

A couple of years ago, the answer to this question would have been an unequivocal “no”. Austrian opposition, along with a commitment by the French government to offer its citizens a referendum on the subject virtually ensured that the stalled accession talks would never get anywhere.

Since the refugee crisis, however, Turkish membership has begun to appear less implausible than it previously appeared. Firstly, last month, the European Parliament voted to make Turkish an offical language of the EU. This is only a small step, but nonetheless an indication of support for this predominantly Islamic nation, with a population of some 80 million people, eventually joining the 28-member bloc.

After a long history of Conservative Party support for Turkey, it is encouraging that David Davies, the former Home Secretary, has expressed grave concerns. ““In supporting Turkish membership – a country with a porous border with Iraq, Iran and Syria – the EU is hardly helping British national security”, he said.

It is quite astonishing that the EU seems so willing to accede to Turkish requests. It is true that numbers of migrants crossing from Turkey into Greece have fallen since the deal between the EU and Turkey agreed in March, which allows migrants to be deported back to Turkey. However why is the EU so keen for Turkey to join? You do not have to be an expert in Turkish affairs to be aware that the secular Turkey of Kemal Atatürk has given way to a more pronoucedly Islamic country under the government of President Erdogan.  The country is facing a violent insurrection from Kurdish separatists and what is more, only a tiny percentage of the Turkish landmass is actually  in Europe anyway.

The support of successive UK governments makes even less sense. The accession of a country with such a large population would of necessity reduce our voting power in the Council of Ministers. Given the huge disparity between the UK’s view of the world and Turkey’s, it is hard to imagine that we would find Turkey to be an ally within the Council. We are already outvoted more than any other country – and this by member states whose values are less removed from ours than Turkey’s.

The only real beneficiaries will be those big businesses relying on cheap labour. It was Spain and Portugal who provided unskilled workers in the 1990s, with the former Eastern Bloc countries being the main source since 2004, but with demand seemingly insatiable, another source has to be found. As Nigel Moore has pointed out,  the UK is being turned into a low-wage economy because of the influx of so many unskilled EU migrants. Using these people is a cheap, unimaginative way of making a profit, whereas instead we should be looking to create highly skilled jobs for our own countrymen. This in turn would create a better, less crowded environment.

Nonetheless, Turkey’s prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu continues to put pressure on the EU and the EU continues to give way. He warned the migrant swap deal with the EU risks collapse unless visa restrictions are lifted on Turkish nationals by June as planned. At the moment, the official line is that these people will only be allowed to travel within the Schengen area,  but John Redwood has raised doubts as to whether we will be able to prevent them coming into the UK – or indeed, whether the Government even wants to .

While it is true that some sort of deal had to be reached with Turkey because of the migration issue, reading between the lines, the EU does seem finally, in its usual style, to be turning the migration issue into yet another beneficial crisis – at least, beneficial for big companies that pull the strings in Brussels and who want more cheap labour.

Furthermore, as EU observer reports, it is being used as an excuse for member states to be forced to give up control of migration policy to the EU – something which, thankfully, is likely to face strong resistance from some Eastern bloc countries.

Many obstacles still lie in the way of Turkish accession, but Brexit, even if it required us to accept the EEA free movement principle, would still – thanks to the additional tools available under the EEA agreement – enable us to distance ourselves further from its effects. Indeed, with one advocate of Turkish membership removed from the EU, the accession process may slow sufficiently for us to create a Europe-wide Free Trade area without free movement of people to replace the EEA before the Turks finally join.

Mr President, it’s none of your business!

Keep your nose out, Obama! Don’t you think you’ve done enough damage to prospects for world peace in the nearly eight years of your disastrous presidency?

So writes Rev Dr. Peter Mullen as the US President makes his case for us to stay in the EU. Dr Mullen goes on to say:-

“His latest conceit is to use the occasion of his coming to the Queen’s 90th birthday party to tell the British to remain in the EU. “you will be stronger for your belonging to this union,” he said. Imagine his reaction – and the entirely justified fury of the American people – if David Cameron said, “Well, Barack, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The USA would be stronger if you formed an economic and political union with Mexico, Nicaragua and all the other shambolic Latin-American states in your own back yard.” Of course, Dave would never go in for such straight talking, but one of his aides might have a quiet word in the President’s ear and say, “it is not the business of allies to interfere in the domestic policies of those allies.”   

This is precisely the line  taken by Matt Ridley when Obama’s secretary of State, John Kerry, spoke in similar terms a couple of months ago. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has also been critical of President Obama, calling him “hypocritical” and stating that it would not be right for the US President “to urge us to sacrifice control” when America would not do the same. Iain Duncan-Smith, the former Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith added “He is asking the British people to accept a situation that he patently would not recommend to the American population… I can imagine no circumstances under which he would lobby for the US Supreme Court to be bound by the judgments of a foreign court.”

Obama’s speech was a truly pathetic effort. The man used the word “friend”, but is this really appropriate for someone like this? A few years ago, when the Gulf of Mexico suffered from an oil spill caused by the sinking of BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform, the President pointedly referred to “British Petroleum”, even though the company’s full name has not been in popular use for many years. This man is no friend to our country.

Nor is he honest in his claim that TTIP “will advance our values and our interests.” True, it will advance the interests of US pharmaceutical giants, but  since when has a top-secret deal to be governed by a text that no one is allowed to publish been a true reflection of anglo-american values?
Quite honestly, his claim that we would be at the “back of the queue” for trade talks hardly ties in with the behaviour of a real friend. Anyway, we already have a healthy trade relationship with the USA without TTIP and world trade is moving away from big bilateral deals towards smaller, limited agreements in specific areas.

He made the security argument, mentioning the threat of terrorism as one would expect. Perhaps a gentle word in his ear that it is the EU that we wish to leave and not NATO might not have gone amiss.

However, it was particularly sickening to hear him talk of “The tens of thousands of Americans who rest in Europe’s cemeteries” who are “a silent testament to just how intertwined our prosperity and security truly are.” Those Americans, like the thousands of our own soldiers who died in World War 2, died to preserve our freedom and save us from tyranny. It is precisely our desire for freedom that drives us to vote to leave the EU. We should not stay in the EU just because it suits America or any other foreign country for that matter, nor should we be put off voting for leave because Mr Putin may like the idea. It is our country’s interests that count and it should be our decision alone what our future should be.

As our President, Edward Spalton has pointed out, In 1950 Clement Attlee, the Labour Prime Minister, refused to join the forerunner of the EU, the Coal and Steel Community. He said there was no way that Britain could accept that “the most vital economic forces of the country should be handed over to an authority that is utterly undemocratic and responsible to nobody”. The decline of our industries and the near extinction of steel production under forty years of EU control testify to his wisdom. Yet President Obama has the sheer cheek to urge us to continue in this subjection – a subjection which he an all Americans would regard as odious and downright treasonable – far worse than anything George III ever did to them!

“For us the EU is a long-suffered wrong, inflicted by our own political class”, said Mr Spalton. “The American colonists of 1776 took up arms for the rights of Englishmen who happened to live in America. Along with Samuel Adams we can now say loudly to our own betrayers – ‘If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen‘.

What possible objection could President Obama have to that?”

Stuff and nonsense from the Treasury

One of the worst examples of government waste in recent times must surely be the 200-page document produced by the Treasury claiming the average British family would be £4,300 worse off if we left the EU. Maybe one of the larger “leave” organisations may consider hiring an economist to produce a lengthy counter-document to rip the Treasury document apart line by line, but it isn’t really ncessary. For all the bleatings of Stephen Crabb on Radio 4’s World at One urging our side to reply in like manner, the flaws of the Treasury report don’t require a 200-page rebuttal.

Firstly, the headline figure is based on a Canadian-style Free Trade agreement, which isn’t going to be our route out of the EU. However, the Treasury report reduced the figure to a £20 drop on tax receipts and a 3.8% fall in GDP if the EEA/EFTA option is chosen. Is it going to be a disaster even under the safest way out?

Not at all. The Treasury report says that under The EEA/EFTA model, “we gain partial access to the single market but we still face custom barriers and we still end up paying into the EU and accepting free movement”. Well, the mandarins at the Treasury haven’t done their homework. We even have more options to restrict “Free movement” under EEA/EFTA than as a member state and this is the least inaccurate part of the statement.

Perhaps they should read the most detailed analysis of how EEA/EFTA works – i.e., Flexcit, which makes it clear that countries like Norway do not face the problems with limited access to the Single Market or customs barriers implied by the report. If there is such a glaring mistake in the methodology, how can we trust their calculations?

Furthermore,  the Treasury report looks at a scenario as far ahead as 2030. The Financial Times tries to defend this approach. It asks the question, “Isn’t a forecast for 2030 absurd, since economic forecasts for even two years ahead fail?” and replies, “This is to misunderstand the exercise the Treasury has carried out. As stated, the Treasury is estimating the difference between two possible futures on the basis of a decision regarding Britain’s trading relationship. That does not require accurate forecasts, just a good understanding of the effect of trade on prosperity. It is the same as saying, “We do not know how heavy you will be in 15 years, but if you drink a bottle of cola a day, we are pretty sure you will be fatter than if you keep off the sugar.”

However, this argument isn’t convincing. One authority who has studied the EEA/EFTA route in far more detail than the Treasury has reached the opposite conclusion:-  “Brexit is cost-neutral in the short-term. As for the longer term, there are benefits, and these could be substantial – not only for the UK but the rest of the world.”

Let’s be honest, could you imagine a department commissioned by George Osborne to look at Brexit options coming up with a favourable economic forecast? Who pays the piper and all that…..

Likewise, Mr Osborne himself said that “the people want to know the facts” and followed it up by saying “Britain would be permanently poorer if we lef the EU”.  This report is hardly a set of facts, just a very long-term estimate. However, the economic arguments are the only weapon available to the “remain” camp and they are being played for all they are worth as a desperate attempt to take the focus off what the EU actually is and the threadbare nature of Dave’s dodgy deal.    If the debate can be shifted onto these issues, the “remain” camp is in big trouble.

Apologies for the lack of articles this week. We intend to produce a rebuttal of the Government leaflet in the next few days  and thank you to all our contributors who have made some suggestions.


Photo by HowardLake

The ineptitude and dishonesty of BSE

Your petition signature could be worth £3,000 in benefits

Protect Workers’ rights in the UK 

So says a petition forwarded to us by a supporter. You can view it on this link, but if you do, take care – don’t  press the wrong button and sign it accidentally! The petition site Care2 is not to be blamed; it is a forum for people to start petitions about anything they like. The culprit is the petitioner, our friend Britain Stronger in Europe.

Anyway, for the benefit of anyone who does not want to click on the link, the petition goes on to say:-

£3,000 per year for every UK household.

That, according to the Confederation of British Industry, is how much UK membership of the European Union (EU) is worth. EU membership bolsters trade, jobs, investment — and vital worker protections.

Don;t let these importanr benefts slip away. Show your support for the UK’s membership of the European Union.

European law has enabled UK workers to enjoy paid maternity leave, guaranteed holiday leave, protection for women in the workplace, equal pay and anti-discrimination measures. But you may lose these protections if the UK leaves the EU later this year.

And that’s not all that is at stake. Three million jobs are linked to trade with the rest of Europe. Membership in the EU also helps reduce the cost of consumer goods and travel — which is especially important as conservatives continue to pursue aggressive, across-the-board policies of austerity.

Take a stand for your economic security. Add your name to this important petition to join the fight for UK membership of the EU.

No, please don’t! These assertions are inaccurate. Firstly, the CBI study suggesting each household would be £3,000 better off per year has been widely criticised. Even Open Europe, not exactly an enthusiastic supporter of withdrawal, was highly critical of the methodology, claiming it was “based on limited and selective analysis” and calling the £3,000 per year claim “flawed figures”.

What of those anti-discrimination measures which European law has allowed us to enjoy? One law which comes into this category is the Working Time Directive. Would this be repealed if we left? Not unless we wanted to fall out with the International Labour Organisation, where the legislation originated. The EU merely acted as a conduit. Furthermore, there is no reason to suppose that withdrawal from the EU would necessarily lead to the repeal of any pieces of employment protection legislation which  did originate with the EU. What is more, if they were repealed, the action would be undertaken by the democratically elected government of the UK. That’s the nature of democracy; sometimes you get a government you didn’t vote for.

To round it off, we then have the absurd three million jobs myth recycled yet again. I doubt if any visitor to this site is unaware that the claim has no foundation in fact. I hardly need to put up a link to our Busting the Lie booklet or to mention that When Danny Alexander MP repeated this silly story last year when he was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, his own department countered his claim after a Freedom of Information request from Open Europe.

If this is the worst we were up against, the game would be over by now. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. The leader of the “remain” campaign is the Prime Minister and shooting down BSE’s pathetic lies on this website is much, much easier than persuading the public that Mr Cameron’s misinformation campaign is just as bad, if not worse.



Business and Brexit

At last the message is getting across that not all businesses are in favour of remaining in the EU. Some 250 business leaders have been listed on Vote Leave’s website stating that they support withdrawal, including former HSBC chief executive Michael Geoghegan, the founder of Phones 4u John Caudwell and the hotelier Sir Rocco Forte.

Also brought to our attention recently was an excellent article by Michael Petley, chief investment officer  at ECU group (And no relation to your author as far as I am aware!) who discusses the risks of remaining in the EU with the threat of eurozone disintegration at some point in the future.  The article points to the unhappy relationship between the UK and the EU:- “Could we rub along together a bit longer in this unhappy marriage? Yes, of course.  Is the marriage likely to last? Absolutely not.  Is one better off agreeing a divorce under “good leaver” terms in an amicable way?  Absolutely. We can either embrace the changes now, when we have some significant influence and control over events, or face the consequences of a messy divorce later.”

The article is positive in tone and very welcome amid all the scare stories about the financial disaster which would allegedly result from leaving. However, an extremely optimistic claim by financiers New World Wealth, reported in City AM,  that everyone in the UK would be £21,000 better off by 2020 if we left, needs to be treated with considerable caution.  The Express repeats the claims, which include the usual comments about “red tape” which, as has often been pointed out here, may well include regulations emanating from global standards-setting bodies which would still apply if we left.

Flexcit (AKA the Market Solution”) suggests that the initial period of withdrawal would be “economically neutral” and with good reason – it will take some time before the UK government could begin a strategic review of all legislation which EU membership has bequeathed to us. India didn’t begin a similar process until 1955, eight years after independence.

In summary, it is encouraging that business voices are speaking up for the benefits of withdrawal. Mood music can make some difference to the campaign, but unrealistic optimism and inadequate knowledge about the mechanics of exit are another matter. Rest assured, our opponents will be poking holes in any weak points in the Leave side’s arguments. We cannot afford to give them any more opportunities to do this. Naive predictions of instant prosperity on withdrawal are best noted and then ignored.

In or out? The sixty-minute plain-speaking guide to the EU Referendum

James Bacon has published  a new book called “In or out? The sixty-minute plain-speaking guide to the EU Referendum”

The book is aimed at the undecided in the hope that, once they see the arguments/benefits on both sides laid out side by side, they are likely to support withdrawal in the forthcoming referendum.
To find out more about the book, please see this video clip.
If you would like to order copies, the link to the appropriate page on Amazon may be found here.