Hugo Rifkind

Can the Great British public be made to care passionately about the EU referendum?

Out or In, both sides of the campaign are going to have their work cut out

17 October 2015

9:00 AM

17 October 2015

9:00 AM

It’s early days, I know, but the Outers have convinced me. Britain will not collapse into chaos and penury if we leave the European Union. The Inners, meanwhile, have convinced me, too: there is no great, looming danger if we stay. Thus I have a question. What are we going to spend the next 18 months talking about?

I don’t see it. I may be wrong, and often am. Here and now, though, I do not see the looming spark which will ignite the dry tinder of the Great British public into giving a toss. Which I think is something that people who are passionate about this argument, on either side, do not quite see. They think it will be fiery. Apocalyptic. Four Horsemen, Eurogog and Euromagog, and a beast crawling out of the sea with a € or a £ on its forehead, depending. They see the fight coming for which they have been preparing almost for ever, and they think everybody else will care.

To be more terrestrial, they think it will be like it was with Scotland. Remember that? Those few curious weeks last year when even some perfectly sane people were waking up at 4 a.m., checking opinion polls and lying awake? The turnout was 85 per cent, and no wonder. This was existential. In Scotland and the rest of the UK alike, it was about who we were to be. And what they think, the two sides (or perhaps more — it is hard to keep track) of the pending EU referendum, is that what looms will be similar.

It won’t be. We are not that sort of European. Some of us are, obviously, and you’ll perhaps find a handful of Europhile jet-setting city types whose pockets jingle with euros and Swiss francs, and who cannot quite get their heads around the fact that most people’s pockets don’t. Such an identity, even so, does not map neatly on to EU membership, as evidenced by Lord Lawson cheerleading the Conservatives for Britain group on the BBC’s Today programme the other week from his house in France. Whether we stay or go, we are who we are.

What, then, to fire us up? Both sides will try fear, in the manner of Better Together’s Project Fear, but both sides will struggle. It was easy for Better Together, after all, because there was quite a lot to be afraid of. In will claim that business will flee, but Out will counter that the UK will remain the fifth largest economy in the world, so there will probably still be the odd shop. Out will raise the spectre of mass, uncontrolled immigration from our EU brethren, but In will remind them that we opted out of open borders, and that our coastline, come what may, will continue to sport a perfectly serviceable and quite deep sea. Immigration, at any rate, is not truly an EU-centric argument. Whisper it, but when people get cross about it, it’s not really the Poles they mind.

There will not be passion in this debate, except from a minority who are passionate already. The public will see people shouting at each other about sovereignty and diplomatic horizons and wonder what the hell it has to do with them. This has always been the EU’s problem, but it will be a problem for its foes, too. Those bananas never did get any less bendy. At some point, probably, parts of Out will do their utmost to accuse In of living in a self-serving bubble. Alas, ‘The Westminster village is determined to prevent power from returning to Westminster!’ may prove a tricky concept to sell.

The last refuge of a scoundrel running a referendum campaign is patriotism. Neither side will find that easy. You will struggle to find many people living in Britain who grew up dreaming of the Brussels they read about in Smash Hits. Similarly, British people do not resent the presence of an excess of Europeans and Europeanishness on TV, on shows like Question Time. Strasbourg does not claim Andy Murray, even when he wins. There is no cultural hinterland here. Whatever happens, ultimately, there’s no particular reason for the Queen to give a shit.

So it will not be like the Scotland referendum. In fact, it may be more like the AV referendum. Distant, technical and dull. And yes, I’m sure I will get sucked in and care enormously, because that is my way. Before that happens, though, consider this column my marker. A sign that, once, perspective was mine. We stand poised on the cusp of an almighty fight. And throughout it, the British people will shrug and be a little bemused, and perhaps care less than many of us will feel they ought. What’s more, they might be right.

A big day approaches

A big day is coming. You will need to be precisely on the cusp of Generation X and the Millennials to care, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t big. True Millennials will be too occupied wearing deliberately awful clothes and riding fixed-gear bikes back to their parental homes, where they still live, to notice. True Generation X won’t be bothered. Baby-boomers are way out of it, and will be busy having heart attacks on the way to their saxophone lessons. Those of us bang on point, though, will stop and stare in awe. Next Monday. 21 October 2015. Back To The Future Day.

I will leave it to others to spell out the lack of flying cars, hoverboards, double ties and toilet fax machines. Consider this only a warning. This is the day Marty McFly flew to in his Delorean. And if you don’t know what that means, prepare to be surrounded by people who do. Enough of your fogeyish Orwell. We own the zeitgeist now.

eu1The Spectator is hosting an evening discussion ‘Is the EU bad for business?’ at 7pm on Tuesday 20 October at The Royal College of Surgeons, WC2. Speakers include: Dominic Cummings, director of the ‘No’ campaign and Will Straw, executive director of the ‘Yes to Europe’ campaign and is chaired by Andrew Neil. For tickets and further information, click here.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Hugo Rifkind is a writer for the Times.

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Show comments
  • ViolinSonaten b minor.

    No in reality we couldn’t give a toss, people have their lives to live and don’t wake up in the morning
    obsessing with the EU. I ventured onto another blog site the other day, one that was obsessed with
    the referendum, Islam and Angela Merkel.
    There were people there foaming at the mouth and using inflammatory and foul language,
    in a little cocoon that doesn’t represent the real world.
    The electorate is already sick of all politicians with their philosophizing and bias agendas,
    I don’t believe in the doom mongering,’ it will be the end of us if we leave the incompetent ‘ but
    neither do I want the emotive sword waggling ideology ‘ we want to return to how things were in the good old days’.
    The discussion should not be politicised, normal people will switch off and not be interested.

    • Gilbert White

      God help us. No Politician has the right to unilaterally invite outsiders. The Scottish Vote was so close they should have been given it.

      • Mary Ann

        So f… the opinion of the majority.

        • Pioneer

          “So f… the opinion of the majority.”

          That is exactly what the EU does.

          • Mary Ann

            More people vote for pro Europe parties than for anti Europe parties, it’s people who feel hard done by who make the most noise.

          • Pioneer

            You clearly haven’t been listening or paying attention to the EU kommissars

          • Pioneer

            The EU has no interest in democracy or the wishes of the people. Perhaps the people haven’t realized that yet.

            My point stands, the EU is a totalitarian organization.

  • global city

    What are we to discuss? The central issue… that of ever closer union…. it’s monumental consequences for our democracy, statehood and sovereignty. perhaps Hugo could make his next article one where he outlines why handing these over to an ever expanding government, with a constitution based on technoratic distance from ‘the peoples’ of Europe’ is not a problem?

    • Peter Broomfield

      Absolutely right! Rarely hear mention of sovereignty which is surely the fundamental issue.

      • Atlas

        Exactly, this is about the most fundamental principles, liberty, sovereignty and democracy. If we stay in the EU we sacrifice them all.

        • Mary Ann

          No we don’t, we have liberty, we are still ruled from Westminster, and we are going to trade with other countries we will still have to fit in with them.

          • PaD

            Fit in with them? Lets allow Peter Sutherland EU Global Migration mouthpiece…his views on the need to DELIBERATELY undermine national sense of identity…read what he says about homgeneity.
            mm Lets NOT!

      • Phonetoholic

        Rarely? It’s never been mentioned until now. What a fundamentalist mistake to make.

      • Mary Ann

        For most people it’s a dislike of foreigners.

    • Toy Pupanbai

      Public apathy is more powerful than public opinion. There’s more of it .

    • Mary Ann

      I don’t see any problems with closer union, in fact it seems to be the grown up thing to do,

      • global city

        Yeah… trusting in your betters is a really grown up attitude to ape.

        Well done.

  • misomiso

    I agree. I am a passionate ‘outer’ but the thought of 18 months of this doesn’t make me happy.

    But it’s still better than only 6 months of this and then a ‘remain’ vote.

  • Man on the Clapham omnibus

    Hugo, you cared passionately about the Scottish referendum because you are a Scot: to those of us in London the undying memory of it was – being bored to death by the same old jock accents wingeing on about this and that. Most people south of the border didn’t give a damn – provided we didn’t have to pay for a golden goodbye (or bribe to stay).

  • PasserBy

    As what could possibly be termed a young person (having not yet reached my mid 20s) I am incredibly passionate about the upcoming referendum and the key issues of national sovereignty with hopefully a Brexit result on the cards. It is hard to judge what others of my age think of it, because you don’t really talk politics at work and there really isn’t time for socializing afterwards.

  • Malcolm Stevas

    It might be correct that “there is no great, looming danger if we stay” in the sense of a catastrophe; but we’ve spent the past 40 years bickering, quibbling, ranting, lying (that’s our leaders, to us), and generally feeling not just in two minds about the EU but thoroughly dissatisfied. This would seem to be the best that can be hoped for if we remain. It is not a pleasing or remotely positive prospect. So it isn’t quite the toss-up Mr Rifkind suggests.

    • Mary Ann

      To leave would be cutting of our noses to spite our faces, anyway most immigration comes from outside the EU which seems to be the biggest issue that most people are concerned about.

    • Pioneer

      It will be a catastrophe.The EU is totalitarian.The only way put of a totalitarian state is revolution.

      • Mary Ann

        You really are wound up about it, what harm has the EU done for you personally.

        • Pioneer

          I don’t come from “the West” originally.

          You don’t realize what you have got.

          Stay away from totalitarian regimes if you want to avoid repression and large scale bloodshed.

          It isn’t something that only happens to “unsophisticated” people in far off lands.

          If you continue down your current path, it will happen to you.

  • William_Brown

    “Can the Great British public be made to care passionately about the EU referendum?”

    Only if it’s televised and the contestants on either side are there to bake and present various cakes and biscuits, perhaps whilst dressed in period clothes…maybe with a premium rate phone voting system too?

    I’ll pitch it to Yentob as soon as he’s finished with all that batmanwhatsherface committee enquiry stuff.

  • Phoenix One UK

    Don’t give a toss, or is it most people do not know? I have been an anti-EU activist since 1997, and still recall the hours spent going through EU files, and including what I found on MSN (long since closed down). I even included video footage of Farage for UKIP within threads, and often received at the time from others involved in debate at being perplexed as to how much was going on EU but never reported by national press. I was also one of those activists who fought to give the British people a referendum on Lisbon treaty, and you should know how that turned out.
    One of the things I learned a long time ago is never trust the press. The BBC has been a propaganda machine since the second world war, and the press are also biased pushing what they believe on people to believe the same thing.
    The UK would be better off out of EU in my opinion, and the press, which includes your paper are often failing to do what they are supposed to do. Report the news not create it. As for immigration problem, I will tell you what I tell everyone else. The people do not need to read about it in any paper or listen to any broadcast be it TV or radio. You want the truth, just go out your front door. Only the totally blind can miss it.

    • Andrew Cole

      Ahah. You fell into their trap. You cannot talk about real life experiences on here as you will be shot down with ‘facts, stats and research’ that says your eyes, ears and experiences are purely anecdotal, not widespread and not representative.

      Doesn’t matter that your friends and aquaintances from many companies are out of work and lost the very same jobs that politicians tell us ‘Brits don’t want to do.’ because the stats say it is untrue.

      Never mind that the ‘2 million Brits are living in the EU’ figure is touted yet how many of these have retired abroad and aren’t working there.

      And lots of other lovely research to tell you that you are in fact blind, deaf and suffering from severe delusions that can only have been caused by injesting some legal high you were spiked with.

      Biggest and seemingly longest trip of my life and I await the comedown of comedowns with enthusiastic anticipation so that I can walk out of my door and realise it was all a dream and I still have that job and can greet my fellow workers with a huge sigh of relief. And then on with packing eggs again. Hurrah.

      • Mary Ann

        I worked in a job that most British people don’t want to do, half the staff were migrants because they had trouble retaining staff, and we all know that Brits. don’t like picking vegetables for the supermarket, but we all want our cheap veg.

        • Pioneer

          What happened to the cabbages in the fields before mass immigration?

          • Mary Ann

            We paid more for our food in real terms.

          • hobspawn

             “We paid more for our food in real terms.”

            …but for other reasons.

      • Phoenix One UK

        My post stands as is.

      • Mary Ann

        Most of the people we are friends with think more or less the same way we do therefore they are likely to agree with you, so anecdotal evidence is very poor evidence. Nearly everyone I know thinks Britain should stay in the EU.

        • Pioneer

          In that case, nearly everyone you know is misguided.

          • Mary Ann

            No, it is you who are misguided.

        • Andrew Cole

          Then you must search out people that are your mirror image. I have friends that have varied opinions on most things. Just as many that think we should stay in as leave however it is noticeable it is my friends earning more money, not living in cheaper housing areas (i.e. the rental and council areas) and those whose only experience of the EU migrants are if they mix with them through work or socially.

          A bit like basing your opinion on a country from your brushings on a holiday.

          We don’t fall out over it though.

    • Mary Ann

      I’m not surprised that the press don’t print much about the EU, most people aren’t interested, it doesn’t sell newspapers, you only have to look at the best selling newspapers to know that all most people care about is clebs. and the price of beer.

      • Pioneer

        Are you a paid EU propagandist?

  • porcelaincheekbones

    The choice is a judgement call on the future of the EU.
    If we remain, we sign up to Ever Closer Union. Whatever that may be.
    The question is: do you trust the EU has a brighter future than this country alone could manage?

    • Mary Ann

      I think we have a brighter future with Europe. We are closer to Europe than anywhere else. we are more like Europeans, and we share the same background, we are descended from Europeans.

      • porcelaincheekbones

        haha no, the genetics generally follow national boundaries

  • phil

    I have a feeling that the baby boomers will have the last laugh in this saga bearing in mind that they normally vote.

  • wycombewanderer

    At the stroke of a pen today, Mutti and the rest of the corrupts have not only given 3 billion to Turkey , but have extended the EUs already porous borders to Iran,Iraq, Georgia and Syria.

    Vote to get out now!

    • Mary Ann

      Yes but if you listened you would know that doesn’t apply to Britain we have opted out of taking them unless they haven’t crossed over to Europe.

  • Mary Ann

    So many people complain that we are being ruled from Europe but if that were true the vast majority of MPs would want to leave to give themselves more power, as it is, the vast majority of MPs want to stay. QED this country is not ruled from Brussels.

    • Pioneer

      Not true.The vast majority of MPs are corporatists or leftists.

      • Mary Ann

        You think politicians don’t want power!

  • saffrin

    “There is no great, looming danger if we stay”
    If the way Brussels railroaded 500,000,000 EU citizens with the Lisbon Treaty isn’t an indication of the dangers, maybe the mass economic migration is.

    • Mary Ann

      We need migrants to look after our olds and pay our pensions, we are not having enough babies ourselves.

      • Pioneer

        Not true. Automation will replace millions of jobs,very soon.Population reduction is the way to go.

        • Mary Ann

          meanwhile who is going to pay your pension? BTW they have been talking about automation for the last 40 years, and yet there are more people working in this country than there ever has been.

          • saffrin

            There are more people working in this country sending their earnings abroad, or home as it were, than there ever has been, weakening the economy as many dodge their taxes, working black market or claiming self employed status until HMRC send them a self assessment form they don’t need to fill in for two years.
            As for who pays the pension, if house prises hadn’t been forced up by immigration pushing up demand, our own could be settling down raising families in their twenties instead of forties.

      • Chamber Pot

        Rubbish. In which case why aren’t we importing skilled labour ? These people are in general unemployable and a drain on our cash and you know it very well.

    • Mary Ann

      How has Britain been damaged by the Lisbon Treaty? It’s given more power to the EU parliament, and we get to vote for them.

      • saffrin

        As you say, it has given more power to the EU. Without one word of approval from almost 500 million EU citizens.
        When were the people of Europe asked their views?
        At what point did any British Government stand for election claiming they will agree to anything Brussels commands?
        From what I remember all three main parties in the UK stood for election in 2000 and 2005 with manifestos promising a referendum and that vey treaty, the Lisbon Treaty and when it finally came up, Brown, our ‘unelected’ PM at the time, decides he’ll have a Parliamentary vote instead, and to he!! with what the electorate want.

  • Mary Ann

    The referendum has never been about what is best for Britain, it is happening because Cameron was running scared of the right wing of the Tory party and ukip.

    • William_Brown

      That’s an opinion, Mary Ann, but I would like a referendum because I don’t believe that the EU is either democratic, or accountable. Cameron’s motivation for calling it is neither here nor there, as far as I’m concerned. I speak as a ‘Europhile’.
      The great myth that we will somehow be forever estranged from Europe, should we vote to leave, is absurd. Mainland Europe is close to us geographically, culturally and there really is no valid argument being made about our trade and business being negatively effected.
      I have a home in France, I run my business from both the UK and there and although, I’m sure that the ‘paperwork’ will change, it won’t be any more asinine, or jobsworthy than that which exists already.

      • Mary Ann

        I suspect your paper-work will go up by leaps and bounds, you will be a foreigner in France, have you considered the issues around health care and double taxation?

        • 1. He’s already a foreigner in France
          2. The UK has treaties with most countries, including plenty outside the EU to ensure double taxation doesn’t happen.

          I plan to challenge every instance of In campaign scaremongering I see for the next 18 months.

          • Mary Ann

            Fan of Farage are you?

        • William_Brown

          Umm….Thanks for your concern Mary Ann, but yes, I have – I imagine that it will revert to something like it was prior to the current state of affairs. Since I employ local people in each country, and have done for years, I kinda know the form.

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          It is written, “Everybody is a foreigner to somebody”.

    • Chamber Pot

      No the referendum has always been about what is best for Britain. Dave can no longer ignore the will of the people to govern themselves.

      • Shorne

        Don’t be silly the people have never governed themselves.

  • I think that if significant numbers of people could see the EU for what it is we’d have left years ago. Apathy is indeed going to be the greatest enemy in this campaign. Followed closely by the in campaign’s lies and fearmongering.

    • Mary Ann

      Never let the truth get in the way, just think if the EU were so bad for Britain, why do the vast majority of MPs think Britain should stay in, after all, if the skeptics are to be believed Westminster has no powers we are ruled from Brussels, if that is true most MPs would want to leave, to give themselves more power.

      • Chamber Pot

        Nonsense the EU will give them far more money.

      • Your argument is a silly, circular appeal to authority.

      • PaD

        Kinnock and his brood?

  • Nick

    Like the last General Election which nearly everyone thought was a Labour victory forgone conclusion,the in/out referendum is going in the same way.And it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a shock result with a massive win for the out camp.

    The polls it seems,aren’t worth looking at.

  • rj

    When talking to my daughter, now of voting age, I’m careful to stress how the EU is not actually bad for big business. Some might call it reverse psychology.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      I’ve done that with my wards.
      “How about getting a tattoo? They’re really fashionable.”

  • Cobbett

    The EU will be the death of Europe.

  • Shorne

    Something that should always be remembered, there is a body of evidence that indicates that many people do not decide how to vote until they get to the polling station, sometimes not until they get into the actual voting booth. Such people have a strong tendency to vote for the status quo.

  • rtj1211

    The easiest way to make them care is to move a whole load of Eastern Europeans into their neighbourhood, set up asylum seekers’ holding positions just down the road and fail to build new schools for 10 years so their children don’t get a place because there are too many kids of EU immigrants clogging the system.

    Oh, and if you sent Jean-Claude Juncker an annual multi-billion pound bill covering the costs of infrastrructure to cope with ‘free movement of peoples’, many of whom will move freely somewhere else as soon as another part of Europe booms, thus leaving Britain with far too much infrastructure and not enough people, then maybe if Juncker had the bill, not the British Government, you’d get Guy Verhofstadt to get off his self-righteous hobby horse and face the music or get publicly flogged in a suitably public Brussels thoroughfare for not doing so…….

    Perhaps right to housing in this country should be limited to those awarded a British passport? Then the only ones who’d live in good accommodation are those most committed to staying here through thick and thin??

    You won’t get people to care watching Westminster and Brussels troughers spouting claptrap for the media airwaves.

    You’ll do it by confronting them harshly, brutally, irrevocably and consistently with the consequences of what the EU is imposing upon this country………

  • JonBW

    Either I’ve missed something, or the author has: I thought that the 18 month delay was necessary to allow the Prime Minister to deploy his legendary energy, charm and steadfastness in defence of the principles* underpinning his leadership in achieving a deal for the UK that addresses our concerns about the EU and which can then be judged by the electorate at a referendum.

    Unless of course I’m being naive and the real intention is to secure a few minor ‘reforms’ (no prohibition of the sale of straight cucumbers, permission to replace the EU flag with the Cross of St. George on car number plates, no expenses claims in excess of seven figures for MEPs etc.) whilst hoping that the public lose interest and ‘stay’ goes through on the nod.

    I suspect though that Dave (and Mr Rifkind) have underestimated just how much many of us loathe the EU as an institution (whilst loving Europe and its people).

    (*The first and third of these are intended ironically)

  • Douglas Carter

    …’A sign that, once, perspective was mine. We stand poised on the cusp of an almighty fight.’…

    I’d have to say you’ve not been paying attention.

    Nick Clegg came up with the apparently definitive list of positives as to why EU membership is a good thing.

    He clarified them at his masterful, statesmanlike performances against Nigel Farage in the debates of last spring.

    The reasons why EU membership is a good thing for the UK are:-

    Nigel Farage thinks he’s Sitting Bull.
    Nigel Farage thinks Elvis is still alive.
    Nigel Farage thinks the moon landings were faked.
    Nigel Farage thinks we should return to the nineteenth century.
    Nigel Farage thinks W.G. Grace should open the bowling for England.

    When allegedly ‘senior’ pro-EU figures attempt to justify EU membership, they will invariably do it badly, invoke long-discredited and/or suspect ‘facts’ before withdrawing from the platform entirely. Labour ‘fought’ the 2014 Euro elections without a single mention of the EU itself. It was a UK-centric campaign only. However, it did have one similarity with the 2015 General Election, itself also uncontaminated by any form of discourse of the EU. Those same ‘senior pro-EU figures’ announced haughtily ‘we must start making the case for Europe. In both cases, around four nanoseconds after the polling booths had been safely locked shut.

    The historic evidence is that the pro-EU side will hide from any form of proper intellectual debate, save only occasional forays where they will assert mantras possessed of no actual manifest substance, before once again withdrawing into their safe Fort Apache, cowering from proper scrutiny (scrutiny the press themselves can barely bring to bear.).

    There will be no ‘fight’. No change. You’ve heard it all before – the next two years will simply comprise more of it than previously.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      “Nigel Farage thinks he’s Sitting Bull.Nigel Farage thinks Elvis is still alive.
      Nigel Farage thinks the moon landings were faked.
      Nigel Farage thinks we should return to the nineteenth century.
      Nigel Farage thinks W.G. Grace should open the bowling for England.”
      I’ll have whatever he’s ingesting.

  • frank davidson

    I am convinced to. The outers have it for several reasons. Who makes our laws?Control of immigration. Note that 70 million Turks will be able to come soon. Return of our fishing grounds. CAP. I found this:

  • Wilky1

    I guess you don’t get outside the M25 too much. Trust me, out here in the backwater of #NotLondon the EU is a big issue & is constantly talked about – negatively… so this may not be as bland as you predict & may well be very one sided.

  • John M

    I think it would almost be worth the mischief of everyone voting “out” just to see the reaction of the British and Eurpean political classes, because frankly none of them are actually interested in Brexit no matter what the population thinks.

    In the event that there is even an overwhelming majority, I expect Cameron – sleazy, lying motherf**ker that he is, to suddenly postpone actual exit (it will take years to sort this out, so whilst that happens) and announce he suddenly wants more negotiations to appease the people (and kick the can down the lane once again)

    Meanwhile Juncker and the Eurocrats will start conjuring up all kinds of ways to discredit and/or illegitemise the vote result, and demand we have another vote.

    Betcha that’s what happens…

  • ManOfKent

    And still Hugo Rifkind has his head firmly stuck up his urban liberal elitist Europhiliac rectum just like his dad. Once again he sits in his excrement stained ivory tower in the capital making wild assertions about the way people think without having a clue what is going on outside the sanitised mediocrity and dysfunction of the Westminster cesspit.

    Clearly he thinks that the great unwashed collectively still don’t like people who do not share the same skin colour. They’re all racists ain’t they Hugo? How very 1950’s of him. The problem isn’t skin colour so much these days, the problem is Brussels and the corrupt out dated out moded political class to which Rifkind belong that prostrates itself at the alter of ever closer union!

  • Augustus

    It’s the EU, and Britain with it if we stay in, that will collapse into chaos and penury if it doesn’t secure and close its outside borders soon, leaving only a few places available where migrants arriving there can wait to find out if they stand a chance of having asylum applications approved. If it doesn’t, Europe will remains open to blackmail by people like Erdogan, demanding 1 billion euros one week, 3 billion the next, in exchange for keeping refugees from travelling to Europe.