Brexit: No, Turkey Is Not Coming

UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage looks on during a debate on the outcome of the 7 March EU-Turkey Summit at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, on March 9, 2016. / AFP / FREDERICK FLORIN (Photo credit should read FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Britons will soon be heading to polls to make a crucial decision for the future of their country – as well as the future of the European Union. The economy argument has been among the loudest ones heard and is a legitimate one to make, but polls show that it is in fact immigration, rather than economy that is the bigger concern for referendum goers. This has certainly been facilitated by the refugee crisis-stricken Europe opening borders and then trying to deal with the consequences with what seems little foresight.

In a speech in European Parliament late last year, Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP and supporter of Brexit, made an analogy of Germany accepting refugees as opening a champagne cork and later trying to put it back in. He believes that the Turkey-EU deal is an exploitation of the union’s weaknesses and that Turkey is conducting blackmail to gain visa-free travel rights without any guarantee that they would help the refugee flow.

Months later, the agreement was put in place and the number of migrants has decreased sharply. This proves that to prompt legal migration, a deal had to be made. However, the terms were controversial. Turkey has been aiming at visa-free travel and EU accession talks for a long time and mixing it up with humanitarian problem solving – only making blackmail for both sides more likely, making the deal less fair.

It’s unlikely that Turkey will get the visa liberalisation deal, as Turkish president is against softening anti-terrorism laws that EU finds undemocratic. The new Turkish government will not seek many compromises, since EU hasn’t delivered on their promises either — Turkey hasn’t received the 3 billion funds for refugee relocation. Blind to this reality, Britain’s Vote Leave campaign has recently taken on the menacing narrative that Turkey is set to join EU very soon.

“To me, without any other debate, if it was one single reason why Britain should in this referendum vote to leave the European Union, it is the folly of political integration with Turkey. It is not only stupid, it is damn dangerous.” -Nigel Farage

UK citizens are extremely fearful about a massive influx of Turkish immigrants into EU and they shouldn’t be concerned because it probably won’t happen. The Vote Leave campaign claims that Turkey is set to join EU in a few years and open doors to 76 million Turks who will pose a great threat to the security and economy of UK (in an assumption that these are mainly poor people or criminals wanting to migrate). When in fact, a poll conducted by the campaign itself shows that only 16% would consider relocating to the UK. In a study carried out by the British government, little evidence was found of a statistically significant impact on EU migration on native employment.

Even if the refugee deal holds, the migration argument cannot be played because the UK is not part of Schengen zone, which will be affected by visa-free travel. Besides, it will give no residence rights. Turkey’s accession to EU is so highly unlikely that it shouldn’t even be part of the Brexit conversation. The basic admission criteria or the Copenhagen criteria, states that candidate countries have to be market economies, able to fulfil membership obligations and stable democracies.

“It is not remotely on the cards that Turkey is going to join the EU any time soon. They applied in 1987. At the current rate of progress, they will probably get round to joining in about the year 3000.” -David Cameron

Even if Turkey’s EU vote was on the agenda, the decision on the accession of a new member state has to be unanimous. The UK, as an EU member can veto it. Plus, they might not even be the only country veto-ing it. Greece has already done it before because of the disputes over Northern Cyprus and the control of Aegean Sea. Additionally – France and Germany hasn’t shown much support either.

Turkey shouldn’t be looked down upon, as it is the second largest member of NATO and plays an important geopolitical role mainly because of its size and location. Though, ts population size would give it too much political leverage that would significantly turn the power tides in European politics. It seems like Turkey would only put a strain on the relations between communities and endanger future cooperation between countries.


The U.K. Devolution & The U.S.

It has been a disappointing primary season for the United States. Candidates in both campaigns have not discussed the ways that the federal government will empower cities – the engines of economic growth and social progress.

Without tackling this difficult challenge, the cities will have to face things on their own – including taking on even more responsibilities if the longer-term budgetary trends continue. Growth in mandatory spending like Medicare and Social Security has crowded out federal contributions to housing, infrastructure, development in infrastructure and more. This will become even more dramatic ad the elderly population continues to grow.

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 04:  Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne speaks to delegates at the Conservative Party Conference on October 4, 2010 in Birmingham, England. On the second day of the conference the Chancellor announced cuts to welfare payments.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

The stunning contrast is in the United Kingdom, where there is a conversation about the devolution of central government power. In the past few years, this devolution has gone from a goal to a part of the national agenda. George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer has been the leader of these “city deals” which creates opportunities for metro areas in Britain to negotiate for greater powers and discretion to strike detailed devolution agreements. In Britain’s election season, the Conservative and Labour parties unveiled competing proposals for how to decentralize power.

Just a few weeks ago, while delivering a speech to the Conservative Party conference Osborne introduced a few new approaches to advance the devolution agenda that are quite bold.

  • The establishment of an independent infrastructure commission

“If we’re going to build, then we have to shake Britain out of its inertia on the projects that matter most. There’s an idea, put forward by many people, including some Labour politicians, and its time has come. An independent National Infrastructure Commission. A commission, set up in law, free from party arguments, which works out calmly and dispassionately what the country needs to build for its future and holds any government’s feet to the fire if it fails to deliver.”

  • Establishing a power balance that reflects the nation’s strengths

“In the end it all comes down to where the power lies. To who makes the decisions … It’s time to face facts. The way this country is run is broken. People feel remote from decisions that affect them. Initiative is suffocated. Our cities held back. There’s no incentive to promote local enterprise.”

  • Allowing local areas to collect their business tax receipts

Today I am embarking on the biggest transfer of power to our local government in living memory. We’re going to allow local government to keep the rates they collect from business. That’s right, all £26 billion of business rates will be kept by councils instead of being sent up to Whitehall. Right now, we collect much more in business rates than we give back in the main grant. So we will phase out this local government grant altogether.”

  • Termination the uniform business tax rate in favor of allowing local areas to determine their own rates

Yes, further savings to be made in local government, but radical reform too. So an end to the uniform business rate. Money raised locally, spent locally. Every council able to cut business taxes. Every mayor able to build for their city’s future. A new way to govern our country. Power to the people. Let the devolution revolution begin.”

In some ways, the momentum of devolution in Britain would only happen in a matter of time after being one of the most centralized countries of the OECD nations and having an outrageously outdated balance of power.

So where is it in the United States? It is true that power is already much more decentralized in America, but there has been so little debate over how to make this devolution of power, making it a testament to the shallowness of the current political debates.