Britain seeks to strengthen ties with Poland ahead of Brexit


Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May will discuss deeper co-operation with her Polish counterpart in defence, security and trade on Monday, seeking common ground after Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

“I am determined that Brexit will not weaken our relationship with Poland, rather it will serve as a catalyst to strengthen it,” May said ahead of the meeting in Downing Street.

Poland joined the European Union in 2004 and has been one of Britain’s closest allies in calling for reform of the bloc.

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said she hoped Britain’s future relationship with the EU would be “as close as possible” and they needed a “good compromise” in future Brexit discussions.

“Whether we manage to complete this arduous task of bringing negotiations to a satisfying result will depend solely on our imagination and leadership,” she wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

One of the main issues of discussion on Monday will be the future of Poles living in Britain. There were an estimated 831,000 Poles in 2015, an increase of 750,000 on the number in 2004, according to Britain’s Office for National Statistics.

May has said she expects to be able to guarantee the rights of the 3 million EU nationals in Britain post-Brexit providing the same treatment is applied to the more than 1 million Britons in Europe.

“That’s something that’s got to be sorted out on a fair basis across the European Union,” British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told Sky News.

Poland overtook India as the most common non-UK place of birth for people living in Britain last year.

The referendum debate had focused on freedom of movement in the EU and record levels of immigration.

In the days after the Brexit vote, the Polish Embassy in London expressed deep concerned about what it said were incidents of xenophobic attacks directed against the Polish community.

The leaders will also give further details about the planned deployment of a British infantry company to Poland to help secure NATO’s eastern flanks, Downing Street said.

Both nations are agreed that other European countries need to meet a NATO goal of spending at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defence. Britain has committed to spend more than 2 percent until 2021. Poland met the 2 percent target last year and has said it will maintain that level this year.

Szydlo’s government had viewed Britain as a focus of its foreign policy in the EU since it came to power last year, in contrast to the previous centrist cabinet’s emphasis on Germany.

(Reporting by Paul Sandle and Michael Holden; Editing by Janet Lawrence)