Penny Mordaunt, MP for Portsmouth since 2010 and Minister of State for the Armed Forces since May last year appeared on the Andrew Marr show this morning arguing for the Vote Leave campaign.
A Minister of HM Government appearing on TV (whether or not as part of a campaign) should be careful to prepare beforehand so as not to misrepresent the factual position. Poor Ms Mordaunt plainly had not bothered – Bad Penny!
Bad Penny told Andrew Marr that the migrant crisis was likely to accelerate Turkey joining the EU and the referendum was the UK’s “only chance” of making clear its opposition. “I don’t think the EU is going to keep Turkey out,” she told the Andrew Marr show. “It is going to join…It is a matter of when.” She did not accept that the UK and every other EU country has a veto on another country joining. That was an assertion that was simply untrue.
As Minister for the Armed Forces, Ms Mordant should be aware that Turkey is a key NATO ally.
- Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952 and is 2nd only to the USA in terms of the number of armed forces it can contribute to the Alliance. The USA has total armed forces of 2,220,412, Turkey has 1,041,900 and the UK just 387,571.
- A 5,453-strong Turkish brigade (the “Anatolian Lions”) served as a part of the UN force fighting in the Korean war. They were later awarded the highest honourable citation of the U.S. Army for saving the U.S. Eighth Army and the IX Army Corps from encirclement and the U.S. 2nd Division from total annihilation. In so doing the brigade lost 717 men and suffered 2,413 wounded representing the highest combat casualty rate of any UN unit engaged in Korea.
- The UK also sent 100,000 troops to Korea, mainly national servicemen and including Fusilier Maurice Micklewhite (better known today as Sir Michael Caine) and they too suffered many casualties – but the survivors feel they have been forgotten. It is highly questionable whether the UK could deliver that many troops today.
- British and European security requires the integration of all the Balkan countries into the Euro-Atlantic structures. Further, Mediterranean security cannot be separated from European security and neither will be achieved without Turkey which is therefore a key NATO ally.
Turkey applied for associate membership of the EU (then EEC) in 1959. An association agreement was signed in 1963. In 1987 Turkey applied for EU membership. In 1995 a Customs Union agreement was signed. In 1999 Turkey was recognised as a candidate country. Accession negotiations started in 2004.
As of now, 14 out of 33 negotiation chapters have been opened, and one of the open chapters has been provisionally closed. As a result of Turkey not having fully implemented the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement, the EU decided in December 2006 that eight negotiating chapters could not be opened and that no chapter could be provisionally closed until Turkey meets its obligations. The latest progress report issued in November 2015 shows that there is still much to be achieved – and indeed some backsliding. Therefore there is still a long way to go before the question of exercise of the UK accession veto will even arise.
But Turkey is a key ally. It should be encouraged to make progress. That is the policy of HM Government and it is must be highly questionable whether, as a Minister of the Crown, Ms Mordant should have spoken as she did.