Wednesday

22nd Aug 2018

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. EU Commission: efforts 'ongoing' over Italian migrant ship
  2. Italy allows boat with migrants to dock
  3. France's Total pulls out of Iran due to US sanctions
  4. Trump accuses EU and China of currency manipulation
  5. Swedish conservatives regret unsuccessful integration policies
  6. Record high measles cases hit Europe
  7. Swedish politician declares war on media
  8. Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya

Opinion

While Poles defend courts, Kaczynski hijacks EU elections

While Twitter and EU bubble publications are flooded with photos of protesting crowds and "chains of light" in front of the presidential palace, the Law and Justice-controlled senate has adopted a law restructuring the electoral code for 2019's European elections.

EU Commission skirts Italy sanctions on Roma evictions

The European Commission, as guardian of the treaties, declines to sanction Italy's treatment of the Roma following a forced eviction on Thursday of some 300 from a camp in the outskirts of the Italian capital.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. 'Final phase' Brexit talks to go on 'continuously'
  2. UK sanctions appeal risks highlighting EU divisions
  3. Wind delays launch of European wind-mapping satellite
  4. Greece 'normal' again after end of crisis, EU says
  5. Putin strikes blow against Russia's isolation by Europe
  6. EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo
  7. Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead
  8. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us