Poland's vision of Brexit
In a letter informing about the start of the process of United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May strongly underlines the unity of economic and security interests and a community of values that permanently connects the UK to a united Europe. This is a great basis for shaping future relations with the EU.
Upon termination of its membership, London expects "a deep and special partnership with the EU". This goal of the negotiations appears on every page of the letter and in at the core of the British prime minister’s speech addressing the House of Commons.
This is a well-formulated goal. Poland from the very beginning emphasized within the EU forum that our European goal should be the closest possible economic and political relations with the United Kingdom. We have included this language in all EU documents so far, including the European Council’s position on Tuesday, adopted quickly with the support of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.
Expecting to negotiate Brexit in terms of future relationships - and even to some extent with them – has its supportive arguments. This mode gives us a chance for greater predictability, which is very much needed today for our economies. A broad vision will help to reduce shocks that may arise as a result of the disorderly, chaotic process of Britain's departure from the EU. The sense of legal certainty, however, is needed not only for our businesses, but also for the citizens who, in Prime Minister May’s position will have found in recent months the assurances of the UK's readiness to resolve key problems on a reciprocal basis.
This declaration is important. We are ready for such talks also on the EU side. However, the next few months will show whether the proper actions will follow. Emerging political voices that call for the restricting of the right of residency for EU-27 citizens following yesterday's notification are alarming and difficult to reconcile with EU law. Also, the European Commission is fully aware of this potential problem.
Poland, of course, is very interested in not only stopping the scale of migration, but also interested in the widest possible group of migrants returning to the country. This does not mean, however, that we can agree that these returnees are forced by the discrimination of Polish citizens in any, even the most friendly, European country. The only proper premise of return may be the voluntary desire to settle in Poland in order to find new opportunities in our country. Moreover, Poles forced to leave Britain do not necessarily have to return to Poland. Higher wage expectations and quality of life will primarily push our compatriots to other Western countries. Let's remember that we are talking in most cases about people who are often professionally mobile and who have settled their families overseas. In addition, our state should behave loyally towards every holder of a Polish passport.
An important dimension of the notification is also the recognition – for the first time to this extent – of the existence of UK financial commitments towards the EU. As in the case of citizens' rights, these are general declarations, but they are going in the right direction. This settlement does not have to take the form of a "Brexit bill". The process itself cannot look like punishing a member state for a democratically made decision.
Fair financial solutions are the second - along with the widest possible assurances of citizens' rights - prerequisite for accelerating the implementation of a broader vision of ambitious and close political and economic relations between the UK and the EU. This key expectation of Britain towards Europe is shared by Warsaw. Regardless of Brexit, London should remain as close of an economic and political partner of the European Union as possible. Taking into account the initial British position on this issue, assuming the departure from the customs union, the common market and the case law of the EU Court of Justice, it will be difficult, however.
Poland has, apart from politics, also purely economic reasons for taking care of the slowing down Brexit's side effects on economic and commercial relations. We have a growing trade balance and a clear surplus in trade with Great Britain (7.4 billion euros). Our service balance has improved significantly in recent years. Limiting tariffs and non-tariff barriers is important for many sectors of the Polish economy, including agro-food, cosmetic, furniture, automotive and transport industries.
"A free trade agreement with the EU that is wider and more ambitious than any other agreement" will require political imagination. Even putting aside well-known models in this field (Norwegian, Swiss), the European Union can not afford to adopt solutions that will lead to the disintegration of the common market. This is an important limitation also from the Polish point of view. Even the agreement on the new conditions for UK membership in the EU made in February 2016, despite the emergency and temporary nature of the suspension arrangements only under extreme pressure on the labour market, raised questions about the systemic consequences for the EU itself. We still feel them today. Also now, looking for ambitious solutions for the UK, we have to be careful not to bring about systemic negative effects on the single market that will impact the internal situation in the EU. We already have enough anti-market pressures in the EU itself.
The United Kingdom, on the one hand, recognizes that, in the absence of respect for the four freedoms of the single market, it must lose its share of the EU market and influence on EU regulation while adhering to trade rules. But on the other hand, it is trying to find a compensation for this obvious loss in the form of a special model of free trade agreement. This process of completing the circle will be one of the most difficult tasks of these and subsequent negotiations. The UK's willingness to shape an independent system of control over the terms of the exit agreement and the new EU-UK relationship are probably a step in this direction.
The failure of this process and the reliance on trade relations with WTO rules would be proportionally painful for both parties. In the British letter one can no longer hear Theresa May's tone from the Lancaster House, where she said that "no agreement is better than a bad agreement." Nevertheless the risks remain. A cause for concern could be, for example, the fact of a rather strong set up, if not linking failure in trade relations with a weakening of cooperation on internal security, including the fight against terrorism. These cases have their own autonomous logic and justifications. It is obvious that profits from such cooperation are mutual.
The Brexit letter shows that London and Warsaw share the most strategic of goals in this process. We want Britain to leave the European Union without leaving Europe, without being punished for its democratic election so that our future political, economic and security relations are as close as possible. The path to this goal is through the fair resolution of our citizens' status and financial commitments towards the EU. In this spirit of moderation and political realism, Poland will actively shape the policy of the European Union over the coming months.
Konrad Szymański - Secretary of State for European Affairs. In 2004-2014, Konrad Szymanski was a member of the European Parliament from the Law and Justice Party (PiS). He sat on the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) and the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), where he dealt with Eastern affairs, the EU’s relations with the Eastern Partnership countries and the EU’s energy security. In 2013 and 2014, "Polityka" and "Rzeczpospolita" respectively voted him one of the best Polish members of the European Parliament.