The EU must compromise to win a Brexit deal that works for both the UK and the rest of Europe, the Polish Prime Minister warns today ahead of a historic meeting with Theresa May.
In an exclusive article for The Telegraph, Beata Szydlo praises the British-Polish alliance in fighting the Nazis and says that ongoing defence and security co-operation between the two countries is essential, and must be at the heart of any new deal.
Poland ready to help its old friend Britain reach the best possible Brexit deal
Ms Szydło said the result of negotiations will depend on “imagination and leadership” and called on the Prime Minister to set out her Brexit plan soon.
Theresa May meets Poland’s Prime minister Beata Szydlo during an European Union leaders summit on October 20, 2016 at the European Council, in Brussels Credit: AFP
However, her focus on security and defence policy is likely to be welcomed by senior Government ministers as many European leaders have sought to concentrate discussions over the post-Brexit deal on economic and immigration policy.
Theresa May will meet her Polish counterpart and promise to send 150 troops and a number of armored vehicles to patrol the north east border of Poland amid fears about Russian aggression in the region in a show of unity and support.
Ms Szydlo promises Poland will be a “constructive partner” to the UK as it seeks to win a deal but in a warning to other EU states she said there must be a “good compromise” to guarantee “economic and security cooperation”.
Her comments echo interventions by other eastern European nations.
The Anglo-Polish summit came as Labour refused to rule out a second referendum on membership of the EU as Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, said the issue should be taken “step by step”.
The UK Poland talks, which will see six key cabinet ministers from both nations sit down to forge closer ties on defence, security, trade and science, are likely to be seen as a move to win support for the UK’s position from its key ally.
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.”
Her words are echoed by Ms Szydlo, who writes of the “special” nature of the Polish relationship with the UK, adding: “For years we have acted together to work towards a European Union that is open, less bureaucratic, and economically more competitive.
“That is why Poland was saddened, probably more than any other country, with the result of the British referendum.”
The Polish Prime Minister adds that her country will cooperate in Brexit negotiations in a “constructive and down-to-earth manner” and said the new relationship should be “as close as possible”.
She writes: “We need a good compromise which gives both our countries the best possible options for economic and security cooperation.
“In the referendum, the British people expressed their will to regain full control over their political life, and so Brexit is inevitably about their readiness to propose and effect a new arrangement for their relations with the EU.”
She committed to protecting UK citizens living in her country, adding that there must also be “proper coordination of social security systems on both sides of the English Channel” as part of the agreement.
The talks are likely to prompt criticism from other EU leaders after the union’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said there can be no negotiation about the terms of an UK exit without first triggering Article 50.
Last night 80 MPs published a formal letter to EU President Donald Tusk following Mr Barnier’s remarks, calling on him to protect the rights of British citizens living on the continent and warning him that people are not “bargaining chips” in the negotiation process.
The missive, signed by Iain Duncan Smith, Michael Gove and Theresa Villiers, also warned that Mr Barnier should not “prevent negotiations taking place” on the issue despite the fact that Article 50 has not yet been triggered.
Yesterday, Lord Kerr, one of the UK’s most experienced EU negotiators, warned that there is less than 50 per cent chance that Mrs May will successfully take the country out of the EU within two years.
Instead he warned there will be a “decade of uncertainty” caused by drawn out talks to determine how the relationship is redefined.
His comments lay bare the desire between nations like Poland and the UK to forge closer ties in a bid to win a smoother exit which does not damage their economies.
It came as Michael Gove, former Cabinet minister and Leave campaigner, yesterday warned against over-complicating Brexit.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that his “worry” is that “there are some people who can’t get over the fact that the British people have voted to leave the EU and want us to have a transitional arrangement which is as close as possible” to EU membership as a way of avoiding Brexit.
He also criticised the use of the term “hard Brexit” as it was “designed to make a liberation sound like a punishment”.