He’s not even a day into his new role as Foreign Secretary, but Boris Johnson has already received some sobering words of warning from Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
Johnson, who played a pivotal role in leading the Leave campaign to EU referendum victory, had been widely accused of “scaremongering” voters by stoking up fears that Turkey could imminently be part of the European Union.
Speaking before Johnson’s appointment to the Cabinet, Prime Minister Yildirim told BBC HARDtalk: “Turks aren’t a threat for Europe. It’s a big nation that will take over a big portion of burden from Europe.”
When asked if he had any messages for the former London Mayor, Yildirim replied: “May God help him and reform him, and I hope he won’t make any more mistakes and tries to make it up with the Turks.”
While Nato member Turkey has applied to join the bloc, only one of the 35 chapters required to do so has been fulfilled, with former Prime Minister David Cameron predicting the process will not be complete until the year 3,000.
Nonetheless, Johnson’s Leave campaign distributed literature suggesting Turkey’s ascension was looming large, in what was seen as a naked attempt to raise public concern about immigration.
The official Brexit campaign also published a map highlighting the fact the country’s (eventual) admission will mean the EU will share a border with Syria and Iraq.
In a Huffington Post UK debate in partnership with The Telegraph, Johnson said there was a case for “a new associate relationship” for Turkey. He added he was happy for Turkey to join the EU “proving we come out.”
During a BBC EU Referendum debate, London Mayor Sadiq Khan held up a copy of the leaflet and wasted no time attacking Johnson’s claim of being pro-immigration.
He said: “Boris, you might start off with platitudes about immigration but your campaign hasn’t been Project Fear, it’s been Project Hate as far as immigration is concerned.
Khan continued: “You are telling lies and you are scaring people because you have used taxpayers’ money to put out an election leaflet that says Turkey is set to join, and there’s a map.
“This map shows in red, Turkey, but the only countries named in this map are Syria and Iraq.
“That’s scaremongering, Boris, and you should be ashamed.”
Johnson’s uneasy relationship with Turkey is already strained after he won a competition to pen the ‘most offensive’ poem about Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. His £1,000 winning limerick was about Erdoğan having sex with a goat.
“There was a young fellow from Ankara, Who was a terrific wankerer.
“Till he sowed his wild oats, With the help of a goat, But he didn’t even stop to thankera.”