David Cameron moves to defuse Penny Mordaunt Turkey EU veto row

Posted On: 
24th May 2016

David Cameron has tried to calm a row at the top of the Conservative party after he slapped down one of his ministers over her false comments about the EU.

The Prime Minister appeared to row back on his assertion Penny Mordaunt's judgement should be questioned
Credit: 
Louise Haywood Shiefer: Dods

The Prime Minister on Sunday rebutted a claim made by eurosceptic Defence Minister Penny Mordaunt that the UK did not have a veto on Turkey joining the EU.

He branded her assertion “absolutely wrong”, adding that her comments “call into question” her judgement and that of the wider Brexit campaign.

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Meanwhile a spokesperson for Britain Stronger in Europe, which the Prime Minister backs, said Ms Mordaunt was “plain and simple lying to people”.

But Mr Cameron today insisted he was “not accusing anybody of telling lies”.

“The fact is that every country in the European Union has a veto on any new country being able to join. That is a fact,” he said during a campaign event at Luton airport.

“And I wanted to correct the record on Sunday when it was suggested that this wasn’t a fact, and I did so.

“I think everyone can now see that what I’ve said is right and the person who made those statements got it wrong.

“That’s life. We don’t always get things right but that’s what has happened and now the record is properly corrected.”

'JUDGEMENT QUESTIONED'

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Ms Mordaunt said: "We are not going to be able to have a say.

“I do not think that the EU is going to keep Turkey out; I think the migrant crisis is pushing it more that way.”

"If you're going to pursue that policy, and this is where we disagree with the Remain camp, you have got to allow us the tools to protect our own interests; to protect our national security that we do not have."

But minutes later on ITV's Peston On Sunday, Mr Cameron delivered a stinging rebuke to his ministerial colleague and said her comments showed the Leave campaign could not be trusted.

He said: "Let me be clear. Britain and every other country in the European Union has a veto on another country joining. That is a fact.

“The fact that the Leave campaign are getting things as straightforward as this wrong I think should call into question their whole judgement in making the bigger argument about leaving the EU.”

According to reports, Ms Mordaunt was already on thin ice with the Prime Minister after she spoke against him amid the Panama Papers revelations into his family finances.

'FAST AND LOOSE'

Labour frontbencher Toby Perkins questioned whether Mr Cameron could trust his Armed Forces Minister and demanded she make an apology.

“It seems totally unacceptable for the minister responsible for armed forces to play so fast and loose with basic facts,” the shadow defence minister said in a letter to Mr Cameron.

“I would urge you to insist that this member of your Government sets the record straight by withdrawing her remarks."

Mr Perkins added: “If she refuses to do so, how can anyone expect the members of your Armed Forces to retain confidence in her, and indeed, as Prime Minister, how can you?”

The row comes as the possible accession of Turkey to the European Union becomes a central facet of the referendum campaign ahead of the 23 June vote.

Mr Cameron has said it is “not remotely on the cards” that Turkey will become a member of the bloc in the foreseeable future.

But the Brexit campaign argues not only that Turkey is being lined up to join the EU imminently, but that the Prime Minister himself backs such a move.