Poland to Celebrate UK Cultural Ties as Brexit Looms


LONDON (AFP) — Poland said Tuesday it was launching a new festival in Britain to celebrate the contribution of Polish immigrants as the country’s biggest minority community at a time when many are rattled by Brexit.

Warsaw’s ambassador to London, Arkady Rzegocki, told AFP that events in more than 30 locations around Britain will not only celebrate Polish traditions but attempt to promote greater cultural understanding.

The events, which include folk dancing, film screenings and picnics will take place on May 6 and 7, the weekend after Poland’s Constitution Day.

“I hope this event will encourage Polish and British people to celebrate together because we should know each other better and the best way of integration is to know more about our neighbours,” Rzegocki said.

There are just under a million Poles in Britain — population 65 million — making them the biggest minority community.

But their status, along with other EU migrants, is up in the air as London and Brussels negotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union.

London wants to guarantee the rights of EU nationals already in Britain, but is waiting for Brussels to do the same for UK citizens in the rest of the bloc.

Immigration, particularly from southern and eastern Europe, was one of the central themes of last year’s EU referendum campaign.

Rzegocki said the uncertainty caused by Britain’s vote to leave the EU was the biggest problem facing the Polish community.

The ambassador said the situation meant more Poles are considering returning home, creating a headache for businesses worried about labour shortages.

“Freedom of movement is very important for Poles. I hope that our governments — the EU and the UK — will remember that during the negotiations,” he said.

The Polish Heritage Day symbol is the red and white checkerboard used by Polish airmen in the 1940 Battle of Britain — a reminder that the history of Poles in the UK pre-dates the post-2004 immigration wave, which took numbers from 44,000 to 984,000.