The clear result of the British general election with the ruling conservatives securing a big majority in Parliament means that the period of uncertainty over Brexit is over. This is welcome by the Polish government and means Poles living in the UK can now plan ahead with more clarity as to what will happen.
The election result means that Britain will be leaving the EU with a deal on 31 January. A transition period, lasting at least until the end of 2020, has been secured, during which Britain will maintain its present trading arrangements with the EU and EU citizens will enjoy all the settlement rights they currently have.
That transition period may be extended if securing a detailed trade deal becomes impossible to secure in the time available until the end of next year. Sooner or later, however, it is clear that Britain’s immigration policy will change, and Poles will have to go through the same procedures for work and settlement as will be in operation for all other countries outside of the EU.
Loss of an ally in the EU
With Britain definitively leaving the EU, the Polish government and the ruling party are losing allies in the EU. Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) have been allied with the British Conservatives in the European Parliament. In the European Council Britain and Poland have been allies over the pace of European integration, EU enlargement, sanctions on Russia, migration, energy solidarity and liberalising the single market.
Britain, like Poland, had little enthusiasm for the European single currency and wanted Europe to maintain close relations with the US. Poland will be anxious for Britain to remain in a close security alliance with the EU and for trade to be as free as possible, as Britain is an important export market for Polish goods.
Few Poles in the British Parliament
The general election brought no increase in the numbers of MPs with Polish roots being elected. The most prominent of those, the Conservative Daniel Kawczyński, was re-elected with an increased majority in Shrewsbury. Mr Kawczyński, a supporter of Brexit, was born in Poland, speaks the language and has good contacts with the Polish ruling party.
Despite failing to be elected in the former mining area of Ashfield, Jason Zadrożny secured one of the biggest votes for an independent candidate. He beat Labour, who previously held the seat, into third place and his result was only bettered by the Conservatives who took the seat. Mr Zadrozny leads a group of independent councillors on Ashfield Council of which he is leader. He is a second generation Pole who supported Brexit.
But in the main Polish candidates in this election were few and far between. Despite Poles being a significant minority in Britain, most are not eligible to vote as they do not have British citizenship.
In the past, those Poles with the right to vote tended to support the Conservatives. The newer arrivals have been less susceptible to the Conservative message as they did not support Brexit. But few were attracted to the left-wing policies and anti-western stances adopted by the current leadership of the British Labour Party.