Vote Leave accused of ‘stoking the fires of prejudice’ over Turkey security threat claims
The official Leave campaign has come under fire for claiming staying in the European Union could put Britons at risk due to Turkey’s accession to the bloc.
Vote Leave has argued in recent days that Britain’s population is set to rocket up as a result of the country joining the EU, which they claim could happen “in the next few years”.
They also suggest the other so-called A5 countries - Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia – could potentially follow suit in the future.
An analysis by the group claimed higher levels of criminality and gun ownership in Turkey could pose a threat to Britain’s national security and place strain on public services.
Previously David Cameron has insisted that Turkey’s accession to the EU is “not on the ballot paper” and insisted it will be "decades" before the country will be able to join.
Vote Leave said: “Since the birthrate in Turkey is so high, we can expect to see an additional million people added to the UK population from Turkey alone within eight years.
“This will not only increase the strain on Britain’s public services, but it will also create a number of threats to UK security. Crime is far higher in Turkey than the UK.
“Gun ownership is also more widespread. Because of the EU’s free movement laws, the government will not be able to exclude Turkish criminals from entering the UK.”
Defence minister Penny Mordaunt, who is in favour of Brexit, also warned that Turkey joining the EU could put the UK’s public services under pressure, saying in a statement:
“We are currently sending over £1bn to Turkey to help it to join the EU. We must recognise the huge strain this will place on our NHS as more people come here, without giving it any chance of planning for such increased demand.
“Expansion is at the EU’s core. We have to be honest about the cost of EU membership for our public services today and in the future: and particularly what this will mean for the NHS unless we take back control and Vote Leave on 23 June.”
Vote Leave will on Monday launch a poster showing a EU passport as an open door with footprints leading through it. A caption will say: “Turkey (population 76 million) is joining the EU. Vote Leave, take back control.”
Trevor Phillips, a former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, criticised the warnings from the Brexit group, saying the “latest assault from the Leave campaign seems to me to plumb the deepest depths”.
“There really isn’t any doubt that what they are appealing to here is straightforward prejudice. I can’t imagine what the sizeable, law-abiding, industrious Turkish community in the UK must feel when they hear this,” he told the Observer.
“This appears to be a straightforward admission that the Leave campaign has lost on every rational argument and now it is simply trying to stoke the fires of prejudice.”
Europe minister David Lidington said the notion that Turkey or Albania could become members of the EU within five years was “complete fantasy”.
Shadow Justice Secretary Lord Falconer was also heavily critical. He told the Observer: “It is dangerous and inflames racism to imply many of the Turks who are coming may be criminals with guns.
“I’m really concerned about the way the Brexiters appear utterly indifferent to the long-term damage they are doing.
“Argue their case by all means, but don’t descend into the gutter and poison good community relationships. Gove is showing no integrity whatsoever in what he says in the referendum debate.”
Justice Secretary Michael Gove argued on Friday Britain's population could soar by 5.2 million - the equivalent of the size of Scotland - within 15 years if voters back Remain in the EU referendum.