In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

Vetoes on European Union Membership

Penny Mordaunt MP (Conservative, Portsmouth North), a prominent Vote Leave campaigner and armed forces minister, suggested that the United Kingdom did not possess a veto over future accession of Turkey to the European Union.


Penny Mordaunt on the BBC: “We are not going to be able to have a say.” (Source: ITV)

Ms Mordaunt had the following exchange with broadcaster Andrew Marr on his Sunday morning programme [1]:

Mordaunt: This referendum is going to be our last chance to have a say on that. We’re not going to be consluted or asked to vote on whether we think those countries or others should join. They are going to join, it is a matter of when.
Marr: Except the British government does have a veto on Turkey joining so we don’t have to let them join.
Mordaunt: No, it doesn’t. We are not going to be able to have a say. The British people…
Marr: I thought accession was something that each country could veto if it wanted to.
Mordaunt: No. I do not think that the EU is going to keep Turkey out. I think it is going to join, I think that the migrant crisis is pushing it more that way.

(Video: Steven Chambers)

Article 49

This is an unquestionable, crystalline untruth.

Every member of the EU has a veto on the accession of new members. Article 49 of the Treaty of Lisbon states, in full [2]:

Any European State which respects the values referred to in Article 2 and is committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the Union. The European Parliament and national Parliaments shall be notified of this application. The application State shall address its application to the Council, which shall act unanimously after consulting the Commission and after receiving the assent of the European Parliament, which shall act by an absolute majority of its component members. The conditions of admission and the adjustments to the Treaties on which the Union is founded, which such admission entails, shall be the subject of an agreement between the Member States and the application State. This agreement shall be submitted for ratification by all the contracting States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. The conditions of eligibility agreed upon the European Council shall be taken in account.

The European Council — which is made up of the elected heads of government from all EU member states — must agree “unanimously”, that is, they must all agree on a new member joining the EU.

In short, every country has a veto.

Moreover, the European Parliament must also agree, and every national parliament must ratify the new member state joining.

Undoubtedly, Britain has a veto on Turkish membership of the EU, a country which is currently moving away from its accession criteria [3].

Suggesting otherwise is an elementary misunderstanding of how the European Union operates.


Turkey now features prominently in Vote Leave’s campaign.


[1] BBC, 2016. Penny Mordaunt: ‘The UK can’t veto Turkey joining EU’. Available from: [Accessed: 22nd May 2016]

[2] Lisbon Treaty, 2009. Article 49. Available from: [Accessed: 22nd May 2016]

[3] BBC, 2016. Reality Check: How soon can Turkey join the EU? Available from: [Accessed: 22nd May 2016]



This entry was posted on May 24, 2016 by in European Politics and tagged , , , .
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