Media Feeds ‘Polexit’ Frenzy as EU Moves to Crush Polish Resistance

Polish policemen patrol in front of the entrance to the Constitutional Court with the coat
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Even Poland’s national-conservative government, the closest thing Poland has to mainstream Eurosceptics, has repeatedly stated they don’t want the country to leave the European Union. It could well be the sudden flurry of speculation around Poland leaving the bloc has more to do with Brussels than it does Warsaw.

The BBC, Financial Times, Guardian, Times of London, Politico, Euronews. It’s the word on everyone’s lips, it seems — ‘Polexit’, or rather Poland’s withdrawal from the European Union is being discussed intensely again. This comes after Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that where EU law conflicts with Polish law, Poland’s constitution has right of way. This is totally unacceptable to Brussels, which even claims supremacy over national constitutions, and has vowed to defeat Warsaw over the matter.

Yet the Polish government itself appears determined to find Poland’s own place within the European Union, not without.

There is no critical mass among Polish people to leave the Union as there was inside the United Kingdom. Even though support to leave has risen, it is still extremely low at just 17 per cent. A considerable outright majority support remaining inside the European Union. And why shouldn’t it? Just like Hungary, another pro-sovereignty nation Eurofederalists obsessed with submission fantasise about removing from the equation, Poland does very well inside the EU at very little cost.

It is reasonably successful at having EU membership its own way — it is a comparatively small economy and while free movement has seen many young, talented Poles move to other EU members to the home nation’s great detriment, it has also become a European hub for banking and tech offices, attracted by a cheap, educated workforce and other low costs. Downtown Warsaw and a handful of other Polish cities are testaments to that.

It achieves this while simultaneously not onboarding a lot of the excesses of the European project it does not like. Whereas the United Kingdom, during the time of its membership, followed every rule and diktat to the letter — and grumbled about it, building resentment at the grassroots level over decades — Poland simply ignores what it doesn’t want. The best example of this is the Europe Migrant Crisis and the repercussions of that felt in many members to this day; Poland simply declined to get involved and shrugged off various attempts in European courts to force it to comply.

This is the best possible situation for Poland, where it cooperates with its neighbours to mutual benefit and does its own thing otherwise. The problem, then, is Europe’s, not Poland’s. As the BBC’s report on the fabled ‘Polexit’ and the recent law ruling has it:

Late on Friday the French and German foreign ministers rebuked Poland, saying EU membership relied upon “complete and unconditional adherence to common values and rules”… The European Commission has warned it will use all its powers against Poland.

A polite way of saying EU membership relies on total submission to Brussels. As was said a million times by Eurocrats like Michel Barnier and others during the Brexit process, the European Union does not work — by its own metrics, at least — if it is a “pick and mix”, where states can choose what bits suit them and which don’t. So-called “solidarity”, the absolute core of Eurofederalism which in reality means submission to the centre, is the overriding concern.

The concern of those establishment media outlets about a Polexit seems to have it backwards, then — if Poland leaves the EU, it will be because of a push, not a jump. A Brussels too proud to admit that a one-size-fits-all Europe can fail when the rubber of theory meets the road of history, culture, and politics.

Why then, this talk? Obviously, the simplest solution for Brussels is if Poland’s national-conservative government falls at the next election and is replaced with the centrist Civic Platform party which is so overwhelmingly pro-EU its previous Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, went on to become a President of Europe.

The problem with this plan, so far, is that the ruling Law and Justice (PIS) Party is extremely popular. PIS was the first party in post-communist Polish history to win an outright majority in the national Parliament, in 2015. In 2019, it won the highest percentage of votes in any democratic Polish election.

The ruling party’s position on the EU also appears to align with the public, in Europe without being ruled by Brussels. Indeed, the distance between the ruling party’s official position that it wants to remain in the EU with the claims made that the party is taking the country out of the bloc, has led party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski to accuse opponents of “fake news”, an attempt to drive a wedge between him and voters.

Europe will decide now whether Poland stays or goes. The default position is to punish Poland, and the EU is ready to withhold tens of billions of euros (over $41 billion in this case) in so-called Covid recovery funds earmarked to the country until it, as the Financial Times has it, can “prove it is no longer defying the European court”. A lot of Poland’s goodwill towards EU membership is predicated on the nation getting more out of the EU than it pays in. The Union, assuming it does want Poland to stay, can do a lot to keep that deal sweet if it chooses to.


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