Sunday

27th May 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."

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"[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.

Opinion

The dangers of resurgent nationalism in Greece

Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

Opinion

Linking EU funds to 'rule of law' is innovative - but vague

Defining what constitutes 'rule of law' violations may be more difficult than the EU Commission proposes, as it tries to link cohesion funds in east Europe to judicial independence. A key question will be who is to 'judge' those judges?

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman requests more lending transparency from European Investment Bank
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  3. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  4. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  5. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  6. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  8. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  12. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  11. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  12. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations