The European Union (EU) must be prepared to compromise to reach a Brexit deal which benefits both Britain and the 27 remaining member states, Poland’s prime minister has said.
Speaking ahead of an Anglo-Polish summit to be held in London today, Beata Szydlo extended the hand of friendship to Britain, saying that Poland is ready to help its “old friend” Britain reach the “best possible” Brexit deal.
Invoking the historic alliance between the two countries in fighting Nazism, Szydlo said that the alliance has continued into the twenty-first century, with both sharing a “similar approach” to current security threats, as well as being two of just five countries which fulfil their NATO commitments to spend two per cent of GDP on defence.
Trade between the two nations is also growing, she pointed out in an article for The Telegraph.
And she said that Poland would be sorry to lose an ally in Brussels, where “for years we have acted together to work towards a European Union that is open, less bureaucratic, and economically more competitive”.
For that reason, she said, Poland “was saddened, probably more than any other country, with the result of the British referendum”.
She added: “For us, Brexit means that supporters of reforming the EU into a more economically pragmatic organisation will soon lose an important strategic partner. But we understand and respect this decision.”
However, striking an optimistic note she called for a “good compromise which gives both our countries the best possible options for economic and security cooperation”, and promised that Poland will be a “constructive partner in this process” – although she said the onus was on Britain to take the initiative on setting the tone for Britain’s future cooperation with the EU.
“Whether we manage to complete this arduous task of bringing negotiations to a satisfying result will depend solely on our imagination and leadership,” she said.
Although her focus on defence and security will be welcomed by senior government ministers, who so far have had to contend with their European counterparts mainly on economics and migration, Syzdlo did strike a warning note over arrangements for ex-pats of both nations living in each others’ countries.
“We hope, as I believe the rest of the EU hopes, that Britain’s new relationship to the EU will be as close as possible, and based on the principles of proportionality and balance of rights and obligations,” she said.
“One thing is certain: millions of UK citizens living across the EU, and millions of EU-27 citizens living in the United Kingdom, should not be made to feel like hostages. Our common duty should be to ensure their maximum security and prosperity, wherever they have chosen to live.
“That means we have to guarantee not only their right of residence but also the proper coordination of social security systems on both sides of the English Channel.”
There are an estimated 831,000 Polish-born UK residents, according to 2015 ONS figures, making the Polish ex-pat community the largest in Britain. Polish is the second most widely spoken language in England.
There are no estimates available on the economic benefit to Poland of its British ex-pat community through remittances – that is, transfers of money from residents of one country to residents of another country, often associated with migrants sending money to families and communities – but according to the 2016 World Bank Migration Remittances Factbook, Poland received approximately $7.2 billion (£5.8 billion) in 2015 in foreign remittances from its global ex-pat community.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mrs. May said: “Our ties with Poland are rooted deeply in our shared history.
“I am determined that Brexit will not weaken our relationship with Poland, rather it will serve as a catalyst to strengthen it. That’s why I am hosting the first ever summit of this kind between our countries today.
“It marks the start of a new chapter in our relations and we will work even more closely together to ensure the security and prosperity of our nations in the years ahead.”
The prime minister added that the summit “puts beyond doubt the common ground we share …to take our cooperation to the next level and to firmly establish the UK and Poland as resolute and strategic allies in Europe”.