Dominic Cummings has defended Vote Leave’s claim that Turkey would be “imminently” joining the European Union, smirking when challenged that the incendiary claim was “far from the truth”.
In a bombshell interview with Boris Johnson’s former top aide, Laura Kuenssberg – the BBC’s political editor – said Turkey’s prospective membership of the bloc was manipulated to “grab the agenda” during the Brexit campaign.
“It was the case that Turkey wanted to join the EU, it was the case that many countries in the EU wanted Turkey to join one day, but it was not the case that Turkey was anywhere near joining the EU,” she told Cummings.
Kuenssberg slammed the claim as a “distortion of reality”, further highlighting that it was “even linked to the possibility of making it easier for terrorists to come to the UK”.
During the 2016 Brexit campaign, the pro-Leave side claimed, falsely, that Turkey was imminently joining the EU and heavily implied its membership would result in terrorists coming to Britain.— Michael Sercan Daventry (@MichaelDaventry) July 21, 2021
Last night Dominic Cummings, the man who ran that process, appeared to find it funny. pic.twitter.com/cskv5Udc9E
She added Turkey joining the bloc was “nowhere near” imminent – and that Cummings and Vote Leave “knew very well” how the public would interpret their slogan.
‘Take back control’
But Cummings denied Kuenssberg’s suggestions, saying with a smile: “We didn’t say it’s about to join, we said it’s in the process of joining, which it was.”
Vote Leave’s controversial campaign poster poster read: “Turkey (population 76 million) is joining the EU. Vote Leave, take back control.”
Dominic Cummings:— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) July 21, 2021
“We didn’t say it (Turkey) was about to join (the EU), we said it was in the process of joining.” pic.twitter.com/QHXbWGGUkF
Cummings also claimed that the Leave campaign that the UK was sending £350 million per week to the EU “drove everyone crazy” because it was true.
But Kuenssberg suggested this was not the case, as the figure did not take into account any benefits the UK might be receiving in return.
Cummings admitted it was “perfectly reasonable” to argue that Brexit was a mistake, but that anyone who was confident about either leaving or staying in the bloc had “a screw loose”
“I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say Brexit was a mistake,” he said. “Of course it’s reasonable for some people to think that.
“Obviously I think Brexit was a good thing… I think that the way in which the world has worked out since 2016 vindicates the arguments that Vote Leave made in all sorts of ways. I think it’s good that Brexit happened.”
Meanwhile, transport secretary Grant Shapps announced earlier this month that the government would tackle the EU lorry drivers shortage by prolonging the hours they are allowed to work, prompting safety fears.
The move came as industry leaders have been warning of a summer of food shortages.
Food prices are also predicted to increase by around five per cent by autumn, with shortages of Christmas food expected this year because of a lack of staff in the industry.
Brexit has also caused a “massive hole” in the number of people coming to the UK to pick fruits during the summer.