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PiS Victory: An Opportunity for the U.K.?

While in Berlin the prospect of a PiS government may be viewed as a threat, in London it is viewed as opportunity writes Hans Kundnani. Prime Minister David Cameron is about to start renegotiating the U.K.’s relationship with the EU ahead of the referendum that must take place by the end of 2017. In this context, some in the U.K. see the new Polish government as a potential ally — precisely because it is more Euroskeptic than its predecessor. In particular, the view in London is that it is now even less likely that Poland will join the single currency in the next decade (Beata Szydło has said that her government would not “lead Poland into the eurozone” and accused her predecessor, Ewa Kopacz, of wanting to “turn Poland into another Greece” by supporting the introduction of the euro).

Unlike the U.K., which has an opt-out from Economic and Monetary Union, Poland remains a “pre-in” that is committed to joining the single currency eventually. According to Szydło, this would be when the Polish economy is much more developed and wages are higher. Nevertheless, the hope in London is that if it is clear that Poland will not join the euro for the foreseeable future, this in turn will strengthen its interest in supporting the U.K. in its attempt to guarantee safeguards for eurozone “outs,” one of the key points of Cameron’s renegotiation agenda. Indeed, part of the thinking behind Number Ten’s insistence that what is currently taking place are “talks” rather than the real renegotiation may be a belief that the climate in the EU would be more favorable for the U.K. after the Polish election.

In the end, while the PiS victory has been greeted by many pro-Europeans, not least in Germany, with furrowed brows, there are reasons to remain calm. First, there is little indication that PiS will choose a drastic course or strike overly aggressive tones that risk alienating important allies, including Germany. For that, the threat from Russia is felt too acutely in Warsaw. Moreover, if Germany and the United States want to avoid a Brexit, a PiS government might even be a blessing in disguise. Warsaw may become an ally on the most sensible point in Cameron’s renegotiation package, helping push Europe to devise a way to protect the interests of eurozone “outs” that satisfies London and the new Warsaw (and with them others outside the eurozone). If this helps lead to British membership surviving a referendum, it would be a win for Europe and transatlantic interests.

Hans Kundnani is a senior transatlantic fellow with GMF’s Europe program, based in Berlin. This article was first published by the GMF

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