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Former MI6 chief warns against visa-free Turkish immigration and reveals why EU faces “populist uprising”

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Offering visa-free travel to Turkish nationals would be like “storing gasoline next to the fire”, former MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove has warned.

on the BBC’s World on the Move day on migration issues, Sir Dearlove said the numbers of immigrants coming into Europe over the next five years could run into millions.

“If Europe cannot act together to persuade a significant majority of its citizens that it can gain control of its migratory crisis then the EU will find itself at the mercy of a populist uprising, which is already stirring,” he said.

Sir Richard strongly opposed EU’s deal with Turkey to allow Turks visa-free travel to the EU in exchange for controlling migration to the EU.

“For the EU, however, to offer visa-free access to 75 million Turks to stem the flow of migrants across the Aegean seems perverse, like storing gasoline next to the fire one is trying to extinguish,” he said.

Sir Richard added that €1.8bn (£1.4bn) allocated by the EU to address the root causes of migration in Africa made “much more sense” than a deal with Turkey but was not nearly enough.

He also warned against closed-door immigration policy. “In the real world there are no miraculous James Bond-style solutions,” he said. “Human tides are irresistible unless the gravitational pull that causes them is removed.”

Sir Richard Europe was facing the populist uprising because voters were disillusioned at the failure to control the number of immigrants.

“Europe’s leading politicians, each caught up with their own problems, show little common determination to break out of this cycle of deterioration,” he said.

He added: “The steady rise of extremist populist rightwing movements in many European states suggests that many voters share this sense of disillusionment. The failure to control inward migration is the common denominator which explains their growth.

“Their rejection of the post-war European dream may not yet be of sufficient strength to break the EU apart and Europe’s conventional parties may yet be able to hold the line if improved control of migration can be achieved.

“However if a politician like Marine le Pen of the Front National can command the support of one in four, perhaps even one in three French voters this does represent a sea change in the continent’s politics.”

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