So good to see Boris Johnson making the obvious case for Brexit, namely that the Turks are at the door. And it’s not just the imminent prospect of visa-free travel for 75 million of them as part of the deal that Angela Merkel struck with that problematic individual, Recep Erdogan, that we’ve got to worry about. The other, longer-term threat of Turkey actually joining the EU should also be cause for concern. That process has been expedited, too, as part of the Greek migrant exchange which the Pope was so cross about.
As ever, Mr Johnson put his finger on the nub of the problem, in an interview with the Sunday Times: ‘I am very pro-Turkish but what I certainly can’t imagine is a situation in which 77 million [his estimate] of my fellow Turks and those of Turkish origin can come here without any checks at all. That is really mad.’
Well yes indeedy. Couldn’t have put it more cogently. Trouble is, it’s not what Mr Johnson has always been saying. I recall – vividly – the alarmingly eloquent leader published when he was editor of this very magazine arguing for Turkish entry to the EU.
But at least Mr Johnson has family reasons for thinking warmly about letting the Turks in: he is one eighth Turkish. The same cannot be said of David Cameron. Back in 2010 he declared ‘I’m here to make the case for Turkey’s membership of the EU. And to fight for it.’ Two years ago when he should have known better, he made clear he was still in favour.
He’s a little less up for it now that we are in the middle of the referendum campaign; sotto voce, we’re told that as far as the PM is concerned, it’s not going to happen. Perhaps the free movement of people within the EU has less charm when there are millions on the move and visa-free travel for the Turks becomes a very real prospect. But isn’t it this practice of saying one thing and thinking another which is what puts so many people off politics?