Opinion from Lord Digby Jones

Is Doomsday really upon us?

Published Wednesday 29 September, 2010

Turkey is a remarkable place – at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. And, having recently visited the country, I am convinced we should grant its wish to join the European Union.  Critics say that would unleash another wave of mass immigration. The UK could not cope. Doomsday would be upon us. I think that is unlikely and we should be relatively relaxed about events. EU membership will not happen quickly, so there is no need for sceptics to whip up a frenzy. Time is on our side. But Britain in particular can benefit from Turkish membership.

We sometimes forget that immigration has been good for the UK and has enriched the country – from the arrival of French Huguenots, Jews fleeing Nazi persecution, Irish and most recently those from the Indian subcontinent we lump together as ‘Asians’.  Many have already made important contributions to the UK economy including my home region in the West Midlands. Those prepared to work hard and pay their taxes are an asset. Those looking for a free ride are not.

Now, the UK is a small island and so we do need sensible rules. We can only accommodate so many.  The new Government is tightening things up but, thankfully, people with talent are still welcome. And our commonsense approach has stood out compared to the likes of the French. They are currently in the process of throwing out many of their Roma community – what hypocrites. For years they barely lifted a finger to stop illegals at Channel ports trying to reach the UK.

Turkey is an impressive country.

The UK likes wider tariff free markets full of people getting richer who will buy our value added goods and services.  Germany has benefitted greatly from immigration from Turkey despite a somewhat ambivalent attitude to the incomers. It is home to the biggest Turkish diaspora in the world, but when it comes to accepting and appreciating Turkish culture, many Germans still have reservations.

A recent study found that Germans do not believe that the Turkish and German cultures complement each other. Yet the relationship has fundamentally been good for both parties. And Germany cannot have it both ways. Who was their best player in the World Cup? Ozil Mesut, now with Real Madrid, of third generation Turkish origin.

Yes, there are issues still if Turkey is to gain EU membership. The Cyprus situation which has gradually been improving needs a comprehensive settlement. There will have to be a phased entry period where Turkey can be eased into the EU without provoking strains or upset.  However, Turkey is increasingly Westernised and its proud history is that of a secular state. Islamic extremists are few and far between.  It has been trading and mixing with Europe since Roman times.

When it is given EU membership – I don’t believe we are talking ‘if’ any more – Turkey would become the most populous country in the EU. Currently it is 75 million against Germany's 80 million but by the time of entry probably 100 million.  One of, if not the, poorest. Yet becoming more affluent and capable of rapidly developing its economy.  Just ponder this statistic – 55,000 ship movements a year go through the Bosphorus.  We should embrace Turkey.

No way will its entry lead to any more federalism in Brussels. Indeed, it would lead to what Britain wants – a trading area not one big country. And much better that it is governed by a secular Moslem tolerant state than the fundamental Islam of what lies to Turkey's east.