Polish FM: Poland will not break EU solidarity

Polish foreign minister Jacek Czaputowicz said that “Poland does not want to break away from European solidarity over Brexit”. His statement referred to a proposal he floated on Monday for a time-limited “backstop” for the Irish border.

Polish FM proposes solution for Brexit deadlock

The Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz suggested in an interview with “Rzeczpospolita” daily how the UK and Ireland could solve the dispute...

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Speaking in Brussels on Tuesday, Jacek Czaputowicz said that the Polish idea of a time-limited backstop for the Irish border after Brexit was a response to a call by EU authorities, including European Council head Donald Tusk, for "bold proposals on how to overcome the Brexit impasse."

Mr Czaputowicz told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday that: "we are facing the risk of a no-deal Brexit, which would be bad for the European Union, for Ireland above all ..., but also for Poland and for the United Kingdom."

He said his idea was offered for discussion and that his proposal could be expanded to include a "binding declaration by the European Union that it would not leave Ireland alone, that we stand in solidarity with Ireland, but are giving ourselves those five years to resolve the problem."

The foreign minister emphasized that: "Poland does not want to break away from European solidarity. We believe that the European Union, the EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, is in charge of this … This is just one of the ideas to consider.”

Up until now, EU27 leaders have been insisting that the backstop must apply indefinitely as part of Britain’s divorce from the block if no other arrangement is worked out to prevent a "hard border" between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Reaction to the Czaputowicz proposal on the backstop

British Prime Minister Theresa May, when asked about Mr Czaputowicz’s idea in the House of Commons on Monday, said: “I look forward to exploring in more detail the proposals that have been put forward by the Polish foreign minister on this particular issue of dealing with the backstop.”She added: “We’ve always worked well with the Polish government on these and other matters across the European Union Council and want to continue to have that very close relationship with Poland after we leave the European Union.”

The Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney dismissed the idea and argued that the backstop would be meaningless if there was a time limit on it. Michel Barnier interviewed by Polish daily “Rzeczpospolita” said that Mr Czaputowicz’s proposal was originally one which the British side had proposed but which did not meet Irish requirements.

Polish anxieties over Brexit

The Polish FM’s proposal is highly unlikely to break the deadlock. It has been made in an attempt to put on record Poland’s long held belief that a hard Brexit needs to be avoided and to hint that a compromise on the backstop is acceptable to Poland and possibly other members of the EU too. Thus he was attempting to facilitate the British Parliament in passing the package agreed with the EU back in November.

Poland is anxious for Brexit to proceed in an orderly manner. It has a million of its citizens living in the UK and the UK is Poland’s third largest trading partner in the EU. In addition Poland and UK have seen eye to eye on sanctions on Russia, NATO spending, EU enlargement, developing the single market and keeping the EU as an organisation of nation states rather than an “ever closer union”. The Polish and the British ruling parties, Law and Justice and the Conservative party, sit together in the European Parliament’s European Conservative Reformers caucus.

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