A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of fear.
Politics is becoming severe throughout the continent. Far-right movements are rising, nationalist parties are getting stronger and the refugee crisis is testing the European Union’s future.
Some politicians are taking this as an opportunity to show their irrational fears.
The United Kingdom on June 23 is going to vote to leave or stay in the European Union.
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Politicians, thinkers, celebrities and intellectuals all around the world are commenting on Brexit (Britain’s exit plan).
Roughly, liberals say Britain should stay in the EU while conservatives favor leaving.
Many British people are bothered when strangers talk about what they consider to be their domestic political issues.
For Brexit, they say, “Stop talking for us. This is our issue and we will decide it.”
I would agree with that position, except that the campaign has turned into a xenophobic contest, of too much hatred aimed at Turkey.
The “Vote Leave” campaign has put banners on billboards all around London.
The image shows a British passport as an open door with dirty footprints of Turks passing through. Written on the banners are these words: “Turkey (population 76 million) is joining Europe. Vote Leave, take back control.”
It does not stop there. The Vote Leave campaign has declared that more than 12 million Turks are planning to move to Britain when the country joins the European Union.
How did they get that figure? A survey among 2,600 Turkish people showed almost 16 percent of them would “consider” moving into the UK if Turkey joined the EU.
The Vote Leave campaign also pointed to high Turkish birth rates — 17.4 per 1,000 people compared to 12.1 in Britain in 2014.
Due to this “huge” gap, supporters of Brexit claim that if Britain stays in the EU, immigrant Turks would destroy the British health care system.
Also, they fear Turks would come take their jobs, astoundingly proliferate in the UK and damage the country.
These are absurd concerns.
It appears that Britons are supposed to decide whether to leave the EU based on how they feel about Turkey.
Beyond all the political problems and human right issues in Turkey, Turks are skeptical about becoming a member of the EU. Today, almost half of the country’s population does not favor membership.
So Britons can be at ease. Turks are not coming.
Frankly, even if those 12 million Turks would “consider” relocating in the UK, most of them would unhesitatingly change their minds just because of all the rain they hear about in that country from retired Britons who live in Aegean towns of Turkey.
The real problem in the Brexit campaign is not about Turks.
During momentary lapses of reason, politics can turn into madness because of power-hungry leaders.
Politicians in Britain are terrifying voters with Turks. In America, Donald Trump is frightening voters with Mexicans. And Austrian, Italian and German politicians are intimidating their voters over refugees.
Unfortunately, this is the new normal in politics, a sad trap at this point in history.
The specter of fear is haunting people in the United Kingdom and others around the globe.
Gokce Aytulu is an Alfred Friendly fellow from Turkey. The Star will be his host between April and September. Twitter: @GokceAytulu