Dominic Cummings, one of the main figures behind the Leave campaign, dismissed accusations of fuelling Islamophobia and racism during the Brexit campaign in 2016.

Former special advisor to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, attends an interview with BBC's Laura Kuenssberg in London, Britain in this handout image released July 20, 2021.
Former special advisor to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, attends an interview with BBC's Laura Kuenssberg in London, Britain in this handout image released July 20, 2021. (Reuters)

Former advisor to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the mastermind of the Brexit campaign Dominic Cummings defended using Turkey’s bid to join the EU in the Leave campaign to attract right-wing voters, which coincided with a rise in Islamophobia. 

In a BBC interview airing on Tuesday, Cummings dismissed the notion.

During the campaign, the Leave side, backed by the UK Conservative Party and right-wing figures, extensively propagated Turkey’s bid to be a member of the EU as a scare tactic. They openly claimed that 76 million Turks could have flocked into the UK and heavily implied that its membership would result in “terrorists” coming to Britain.

The racist slogan couldn’t have been further from the truth but the Leave campaign ended up attracting droves of right-wing and conservative voters, managing to tilt the 2016 referendum in their favour. 

But the claim was not coincidental. Right-wing racist British politicians like Nigel Farage exploited the refugee influx to Europe, particularly vulnerable Syrian refugees at the height of the so-called refugee crisis and stoked fears by claiming that the UK would be occupied by Muslim refugees if it didn’t leave the European Union. 

Former special advisor to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, attends an interview with BBC's Laura Kuenssberg in London, Britain in this handout image released July 20, 2021.
Former special advisor to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings, attends an interview with BBC's Laura Kuenssberg in London, Britain in this handout image released July 20, 2021. (Reuters)

The outlandish claims of what Turkey’s accession to the EU would result in, particularly mass migration from Turkey, was the cornerstone of the Leave campaign. So much so that Prime Minister Boris Johnson, despite his Turkish ancestry, did not hesitate to exploit it during the campaign. 

During the referendum campaign, Johnson repeatedly claimed that Turkey, whose bid to join the EU had stalled, could eventually become a member and Turks would eventually be able to migrate to the UK.

Johnson wrote a joint letter to then Prime Minister David Cameron, just a week before referendum day in June 2016, in which he said, “the public will draw the reasonable conclusion that the only way to avoid having common borders with Turkey is to vote leave and take back control on 23 June.”

Despite his well-documented claims, Johnson continuously lied about his claims as late as 2019, saying he “didn’t make any remarks about Turkey” during the referendum campaign. 

Dominic Cummings accused Johnson, during the interview, of taking coronavirus lightly and revealing he held conversations about ousting him. Cummings said his former boss "put his own political interests ahead of people's lives". 

He resigned as chief adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson in November after an internal power struggle. In the latest of a series of attacks on the government, he shared WhatsApp messages apparently from Johnson.

In one message shown by Cummings to the BBC, the prime minister allegedly wrote in October that most people were dying from the virus at a ripe old age.

Cummings summarised Johnson's attitude at the time as: "This is terrible but the people dying are essentially all over 80 and we can't kill the economy just because of people dying over 80."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies