‘Poland does not want to punish the British’: deputy minister

Poland's deputy FM Konrad Szymański. Photo: PAP/Wiktor Dąbkowski

In an interview published on Friday, Poland’s deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymański said the EU should do all it can to prevent Brexit talks from collapsing, adding that a creative compromise could ensure continued cooperation in the area of security and commerce.

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Click here to read an analysis from Poland in English.

Mr Szymański, the deputy FM in charge of European affairs, began the interview with the “Rzeczpospolita” daily by saying that the UK was a “thriving democracy.” He added that UK PM Theresa May should be praised for the effort that went into preparing the recently announced White Paper containing the UK’s position on future relations with the European Union, and the EU should approach the UK’s proposals with an “open mind.”

Poland’s deputy FM said that the UK’s current position is by no means a “soft” approach to Brexit, as the UK would be leaving both the common market and the customs union, with freedom of establishment and the jurisdiction of EU’s Court of Justice to be abolished once the process is over.

However, Ms May was making efforts to maintain “a very intense cooperation in the area of trade and security” between the UK and continental Europe – a concept that Poland also supported.

“We would like to ensure that Brexit does not undermine trade cooperation in any way,” the deputy FM said, adding that cooperation in the field of internal and external security should likewise continue at the current level.

He also said that the risk of the EU and the UK failing to reach an agreement is “higher than ever.” This means that the EU must work towards avoiding such a crisis, as the cost for both sides would be considerable.

In Mr Szymański’s view, Poland cannot accept an agreement which would bring about adverse consequences for the EU, but the EU has to “think creatively” to achieve a balance in trade relations now that the UK would be leaving the European single market.

‘No punishment’

The deputy FM also categorically rejected the notion that the EU should take punitive measures towards the UK to warn other potential leavers against following in Britain’s footsteps. In his view, the UK “had the right to decide to leave the EU” and any ideas which would involve “punishing” the UK would not be in Europe’s best interests. The preferred course of action would be seeking out a “pragmatic model for cooperation for the future,” the deputy FM concluded.

Since Poland’s accession to the EU in 2004, a substantial number of Poles chose to settle in the UK due to better wages and living standards, leading Poles to become the UK’s second-biggest foreign-born community.

As of 2016, the number of Polish-born residents in the UK was estimated at 911,000, with Polish becoming the second most-spoken language in England.

The Brexit and the associated fears concerning the rights of Polish expats have meant that negotiations between the UK and the EU remained high on the agenda of Poland’s government.

In June, British Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said that the rights of Poles and other EU citizens in the United Kingdom will remain nearly the same as they were before the Brexit.

With the total value of Polish goods exported to the UK being estimated at EUR 12.1 billion for 2017, the UK is also an important trading partner for Poland, accounting for 6.4 percent of all of Polish exports and placing third behind only Germany and the Czech Republic.

source: Rzeczpospolita


Not yet a change of policy, but certainly a change of tone from Poland on the Brexit negotiations. The British government will see this interview as a sign that Poland is now readier to push the EC and Western Europe for a settlement along the line the British are proposing.

The current Polish government realizes that Britain leaving the EU means it is losing a key advocate for widening rather than deepening the EU and maintaining strong ties with the US. Any gains in terms of financial institutions mulling a move to Warsaw from London don’t really make up for that. They would be purely short term gains. If Brexit is inevitable, then Poland wants it to be as amicable as possible.

Minister Szymański is signaling that Poland is ready to accept most of what PM May’s government is now proposing. It seems that after many months of there being unity within the EU over the bloc’s negotiating stance some differences are beginning to surface.

Poland is in a situation in which over a million Poles live in the UK. Britain is also Poland’s third largest trading partner inside the EU. British troops are active in the defense of the eastern flank of NATO. Poland is anxious to maintain trade, security ties and good relations with Britain.

A “no-deal Brexit” could put at risk Poles rights of stay in the UK and the current levels of trade between the two countries. Poland is therefore more flexible on the kind of relationship the EU should have with Britain then perhaps is the case with many other EU member states.

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