Tuesday

18th Jun 2019

Back the EU or risk isolation, Poland warns UK

  • Sikorski in Blenheim: 'Please don't expect us to help you wreck or paralyze the EU' (Photo: msz.gov.pl)

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski has called on Britain to abandon its "false consciousness" of euroscepticism and take the lead in EU decision-making.

Speaking at the Global Horizons conference at Blenheim palace near Oxford on Friday (21 September), the Oxford-educated Sikorski said Britain's hostility towards the EU is based on "myths."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"[The UK] is living with [a] false consciousness ... your interests are in Europe. It's high time for your sentiments to follow," he told the meeting.

Calling for Britain to take a stronger position on shaping EU policy, Sikroski noted that the EU: "is an English-speaking power. The Single Market was a British idea. A British commissioner runs our diplomatic service. [And] you could, if only you wished, lead Europe's defence policy."

The Polish government sees itself as a natural ally of Britain's in the EU. Both are outside the eurozone and have close relations with the United States.

But Sikorski warned Britain not to undermine the 27-country bloc. "If you refuse, please don't expect us to help you wreck or paralyze the EU," he said.

He also highlighted the economic benefits of EU membership, saying that the EU single market is worth between £1,500 (€2,000) and £3,500 per year to British households.

Sikorski dismissed the idea, floated by some eurosceptics, that Britain's size and trading muscle could see it negotiate more favourable trading terms with the Union.

He warned that while 50 percent of the country's trade was with other EU countries, the UK only accounted for 11 percent of EU trade: "While you are an important market for the rest of the EU ... [There are] no prizes for guessing who would have the upper hand in such a negotiation."

The Pole's pro-European speech comes as the UK's political party congresses get underway.

In two weeks Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to come under further pressure from his party to call an 'in/out' referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.

With the eurozone still struggling to deal with the sovereign debt crisis and with further centralisation of economic decision-making, a large number of British MPs want to see Cameron secure opt-outs from a several EU policy areas by renegotiating the terms of Britain's EU membership.

Last week, Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, which campaigns for British withdrawal from the EU, told his party conference that he would be prepared to enter into an informal election pact with the Tories on condition of an 'in/out/ referendum.

But he insisted that any deal on a referendum would have to be "sealed with blood." The party, which Farage helped launch in the early 1990s, believes that it might top the British polls in the European elections in 2014.

Conservatives are anxious to target Ukip voters, which tend to be mainly former Tory supporters.

While Ukip got 12 MEPs into the European Parliament in 2009, it has none in the House of Commons, but Conservative strategists are worried it could win a string of marginal seats and increase the chances of a Labour victory in the next British elections, expected in 2015.

A survey by pollsters YouGov in 2012 said most Britons want EU reform, with 67 percent backing the idea of holding a referendum on EU membership and just 19 percent opposed. Forty two percent say they would vote to stay in and 34 percent said they would vote to leave.

In 2011, the UK government also passed a "referendum lock" bill which ties it to a referendum on any future EU treaty involving the transfer of powers from national level to Brussels.

Hague makes case for minimalist EU

British foreign minister Hague has made the case for a politically minimalist European Union as it prepares to audit its relations with Brussels.

News in Brief

  1. Swiss stock exchange could lose EU access in July
  2. Austria's Strache will not take up EU parliament seat
  3. Tanker attacks pose questions for EU on Iran deal
  4. Johnson skips TV debate for UK prime ministership
  5. Slovakia's first female president takes office
  6. Irish immigration officers flew back business class
  7. Catalan MEP denied taking seat in European Parliament
  8. EU plans to restructure eurozone bonds

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  3. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  5. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  6. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  7. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  8. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody

Latest News

  1. EU summit must give effective answer on migration
  2. Spain's Garcia set to be next Socialist leader in parliament
  3. Erdogan mocks Macron amid EU sanctions threat
  4. The most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of
  5. 'Russian sources' targeted EU elections with disinformation
  6. Top EU jobs summit dominates This WEEK
  7. EP parties planning 'coalition agenda' ahead of jobs summit
  8. MEP blasts Portugal over football whistleblower

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  2. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  5. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  10. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  11. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  12. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us