Poles, join us
The decision to leave the EU did a lot to strengthen us. I will encourage Poland to follow our lead, says Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski, the first Polish-born member of the House of Commons.
Anna Gwozdowska: The EU summit in Bratislava took place without the participation of Great Britain. Do you not feel a little bit of regret as a result?
Daniel Robert Kawczynski, a British Conservative Party politician and the Member for Parliament for Shrewsbury and Atcham in Shropshire, England: Why would I have any regrets? Brexit was not an unthought-through decision. We didn’t wake up one day with the thought that we should leave the European Union because we longer want British people to have their rights to decide their futures taken away from them. First we tried for a long time to fix the Union from the inside and create a coalition of ideologically like-minded European conservative parties, which like us also do not want to have a federalist Europe. In 2003, I met with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who advised us to create an anti-federalist block in the European Parliament, assuring that PiS would join us. A while later we did indeed find ourselves forming a block within the European Parliament with PiS and the Czech party ODS. We tried to convince supporters of federalization that we need changes within EU policy, but they weren’t ready to hold these talks and did not try to understand our position. It is precisely this rigid position of EU politicians that pushed people like myself closer to Brexit-supporters.
What is Brexit actually about? After all, it is not just about principles such as sovereignty?
The British are worried about the number of immigrants. Of course, we are very grateful to the people who came to our country and contributed to the development of our country, but it can’t be that the country doesn’t control the scale of immigration. We are tolerant towards foreigners. When I came to Great Britain I was met with so many good things and complete acceptance. The people of Shrewsbury, who I represent in parliament, have learnt to pronounce my surname to perfection. But in order to be able to pass on such tolerance to the next generation of Britons, we have to regain control over our borders.
Otherwise British tolerance will cease to exist?
When you have so many people coming here – and I assure you that there are parts of Great Britain, such as Boston and Peterborough, that are packed to the brim with immigrants – it is the case that already now we are losing control over the incoming wave of people due to the scale of the problem. Our hospitals, clinics and schools are overcrowded.
Is that the reason why anti-immigrant sentiment is now widespread across Great Britain?
The overwhelming majority of British people want for the 2.5 million immigrants living in Great Britain to have the right to stay the country after Brexit. Public opinion polls confirm this. Obviously we want the 2 million British people living in the European Union to have the same rights. That is why once we start negotiations regarding leaving the EU, one of the priorities should be to regulate the status of immigrants already living in England.
Is there something wrong with the fact that people want to choose where they work?
This is of course understandable but it is only possible in a situation where all EU countries are developed to the same degree, with their residents all speaking the same language. But this is not the case and that is why immigration has got out of control. Today we can see that the free movement of people cannot work automatically. When you’re a not particularly big island such as Great Britain and take in as many as 400,000 immigrants every year, there comes a moment when we realize that if this continues for another 10-20 years then our system – health care, education – will not be able to cope. It is also worth remembering that all of these British towns bearing a Polish presence also signify abandoned parts of Poland. After all, many highly educated Poles come to England. Sooner or later, Poland will start to feel their absence. That is why complete freedom of movement is neither in the interest of Great Britain nor Poland.
Will it be necessary to close off the British border following Brexit?
We simply want to return to a system where it is we who decide who we let in. Anyone can apply to come to Great Britain, but they will need to show their qualifications. We will then be the ones to decide whether we grant the right to work in our country based on the demands of the labour market.
Was it a mistake to immediately open the labour market to Poles following our accession to the EU?
I don’t think so, however our openness proved to be a catalyst. Let me just remind you that when other EU countries opened their labour markets to the people of Eastern Europe, the number of people coming to Great Britain did not decline.
Because we have the fifth-biggest economy, which works as a magnet. Interestingly, Great Britain has created more jobs in the last six years than the rest of the EU combined. Immigrants appreciate our friendly approach to foreigners. I bet you that Poles living here feel substantially more comfortable than those living elsewhere in Europe.
Perhaps not as much lately.
I completely understand the interest of the Polish media in the tragic acts of aggression that even led to a murder, but on the other hand there are almost one million Poles living in Great Britain and the overwhelming majority of them feel welcome and appreciated.
Is this what English people think or the Polish-born member of parliament?
I recently led a debate in the House of Commons on the presence of Poles in Great Britain and I heard only positive things. According to the English, Poles are bringing life back to neglected parts of town and are reinvigorating our churches. New pre-schools and Polish shops pop up in the places that they settle in. They provide a strong development impulse to many places.
Is it not a pity then that more Poles wont have the opportunity to witness this British hospitality?
We want to take in qualified workers from Poland, but first we must regain control over the system. Because if we fail to do this, then we will have problems with the extreme right.
You voted in favour of leaving the EU together with the extreme right-wing UKIP party.
Which doesn’t change the fact that I am very worried by this party. The majority of people in Great Britain have moderate views, but there will always be those who find favour in the extreme views such as those of the right-wing UKIP party. A lot will depend on how the government deals with immigration.
EU member states still hope that the United Kingdom will change its mind regarding Brexit. Are they right to do so?
No chance. We wont allow for this to happen under any condition. Apart from that, I don’t think that the EU will complicate our negotiations. After all, we are a huge profit market for EU countries. We are receiving an increasingly large number of signals from countries around the world indicating interest in signing bi-lateral trade agreements – for example Saudi Arabia, Canada, Brazil.
What effect do you expect the EU negotiations to have?
We want to continue to trade and work closely with Europe while at the same time maintaining control of our borders. I think this can be achieved, however if someone tries to complicate our negotiations then this will only accelerate Brexit. No country wants to be trampled over. Anyway, I think that my beloved Poland is starting to feel what we have gone through in recent years.
Is someone trampling on Poland?
It is a scandal, the way that the European Union has been treating Poland. I actually discussed this with Radoslaw Sikorski during a television debate. They are interfering in your internal affairs, without even knowing what is going on with the Constitutional Tribunal. The EU’s central-leftist elite is telling you what to do.
And will we end up the same situation as Great Britain?
I am going to Poland in October and I intend to meet with eurosceptics in the Sejm. We need to share our experiences with our brothers in Warsaw. Believe me, the decision to leave the European Union has strengthened us. I will encourage Poland to follow our lead.
You will find this difficult as many Poles, including eurosceptics, regard membership in the EU as a form of protection against Russia?
Are the attempts to interfere with Polish affairs not a danger to your sovereignty? On a different note, I really understand Poland’s concerns about Russia. My grandfather, Roman Kawczynski, used to tell me what Poland went through during the war and under Communism. I myself remember the queues in shops and the Orwellian world under the leadership of Gen. Jaruzelski, because I used to come to Poland as a child. Poles are right to be skeptical of Russian intentions. But one has to talk to Russia from a position of strength, which is why you need to have NATO bases to the East of Warsaw as well as unity within NATO itself.
Are there any threats to NATO?
Yes. The European army. This is really a big threat. NATO might not be the ideal alliance, but it has proven its worth and people trust it. I have never heard anyone in my constituency complain about NATO, but I have heard thousands of complaints directed at the EU.
The idea of creating a European army has already appeared but for now remains just talk…
Now the situation is serious. This is yet another big project of the eurocrats, who already have a common currency and Schengen. Now they want to create a common defence platform and if this actually sees the light of day then we will have a duplication of NATO’s activities, which sooner or later will threaten its existence. Even more so given that there are generals in Europe who really do want to be on their own, without the backing of the United States. And Poland cannot rely on France or Germany when it comes to its security.
So you should have stayed in the European Union and defended NATO.
We are leaving the EU but we are staying in NATO. We want to defend NATO together with Poland, who we trust. Should the Russians ever threaten Poland then we will stand by your side together with the United States. A European army will most definitely not defend you.
And what will happen with the alliance between Poland and Great Britain?
We are returning to a close partnership with Poland. We will finally be able to decide what our relations should look like, because up to now the European Union has always interfered with everything. Our alliance can only be even stronger in every single area: defence, science, education and of course trade. Great Britain wants to be Poland’s most important trade partner. I am convinced that this is possible.
Perhaps one could have changed the EU, instead of running away from it? The four members of the Visegrad Group have a plan on how to do this.
At the moment, I only see arrogance from Paris and Berlin towards the Hungarians and Poles, who – in the eyes of EU politicians – have the cheek to question the reasoning of the EU’s leadership regarding the refugee issue. Until now, the Berlin-Paris axis has controlled everything in the EU and although I applaud what the Visegrad Group is doing I am afraid that you are stepping on dangerous ground. You are standing up to Brussels. I wish you success but I really doubt that you will succeed as the EU is based on the premise that it needs to take control over an increasing number of areas within its member states. That is exactly why we are leaving it.