Let's not stuff Turkey
On Saturday Conservative Home were kind enough to publish my response to Philip Hollobone’s comments on Turkish accession to the EU – you can read the full blog here. My argument was that there are numerous strategic benefits – to Britain and to the wider EU – of Turkish membership and that any potential risks are easily mitigated. Support for Turkish accession was one of the Progressive Conservatism Project’s ‘12 tests for 2012’ and represents one of our challenges to Cameron’s team to demonstrate the progressive part of their “progressive” conservative agenda.
Alongside the progressive benefits membership could bring the Turkish people – economic opportunities, human rights protection and a necessarily unwavering commitment to democracy – there are geopolitical imperatives at work. Turkey has long been a key NATO ally, one of only a handful of Muslim countries with a reasoned approach to Israel and a rare friend in the war on terror. Taking these stands has understandably been politically difficult for a number of Turkish administrations. Membership of the EU would signal our commitment to working with Turkey as a close friend and equal, and would be a powerful propaganda tool against those who accuse us of using Turkey simply when it suits us. It is crucial that we help Turkey to avoid the clammy embrace of radical regimes in Syria and Iran, and provide them with a viable alternative.
Finally Turkish accession would provide one very real benefit for rational euro-skeptics. Our primary complaint about the EU is that it is too often intrusive and homogenizing, seeking to eradicate differences in its member states. The rhetoric of entrenched opponents of Turkish membership – that it would somehow ‘dilute’ the supposedly Christian identity of Europe – highlights the real prize for conservatives in supporting accession. We don’t want the EU to have a cultural or religious identity. We want the EU to be a free-trade club, founded on principles of democracy and capitalism that are shared by people of different cultures, different ethnicities and different faiths. Euro-skeptic conservatives should support Turkish membership because it would help protect their vision of Europe against the peculiar neo-Christendom that some in Brussels seem hell-bent on creating. So Cameron should ignore the hysterical rhetoric about migration or cultural differences and proclaim Britain’s commitment to welcoming Turkey into club!