Britain will not follow other European countries in restricting Turkish referendum campaigning
Turkish ministers are free to canvass their expats in Britain – unlike other European countries – ahead of next month’s referendum, UK trade minister Greg Hands has said.
Mr Hands said he was not aware of any obstacle to foreign MPs coming to the UK to campaign, citing the example of French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron.
The British minister’s comments came after several European countries sought to ban Turkish referendum campaigning on their soil.
Turkey’s looming referendum – on 16 April – will be on the question of granting sweeping new powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
More than three million registered Turkish citizens around the world, including around 80,000 in the UK, will be entitled to vote in the referendum the weekend before.
Several local authorities in Germany, where there are around 1.4 million registered voters, have blocked Turkish ministers from campaigning for a Yes vote, citing a ban on political events. Politicians in Austria and the Netherlands have also hinted at imposing similar restrictions.
But in response to a question from Haber newspaper, Mr Hands said there were no plans to prevent Turkish politicians from campaigning ahead of next month’s referendum.
“I’m not aware of any moves in the UK to prevent anybody from campaigning in that referendum,” Mr Hands said at an event in the Houses of Parliament.
“What I would say is that we allow other foreign politicians to campaign in our country. Last week we had Emmanuel Macron coming over to campaign the French expatriate community for the French elections.
“I’m not aware of any moves in the UK government to do anything specific in relation to the April referendum [in Turkey].”
Mr Hands, a minister in the International Trade department, was speaking at an event organised by MUSIAD, the Turkish-Muslim industrialists and businessmen association.
Germany’s restrictions on Turkish referendum campaigning prompted a furious response in Ankara, with Mr Erdoğan likening the decision to the Nazi regime.