Big question after referendum in the UK on the 23rd of June is how Brexit will affect Poland – and more precisely: is it bad news for Poland?
The first concern is naturally the almost one million Poles living in the UK. Possible disadvantages are work permits, limited travelling, residency and higher tuition fees for students. Poles who have lived in Britain less than five years and thus cannot apply for UK residency may be forced to move back to Poland. Poles working in the UK are not only worried about possible increase of bureaucracy, but also reasoning behind Brexit, such as anti-immigration. Supporters of Brexit claim that Britain cannot control immigration from other EU countries and on the other hand also cannot continue accepting unlimited number of immigrants. Reducing immigration is seen as way of raising wages for many unskilled jobs, which now are done by immigrants who accept lower wages.
The ruling party of Poland Law and Justice, although Eurosceptic, has not been particularly happy about Brexit. Leader of the party Mr. Kaczynski has announced that Britain should be offered a chance of returning back to the EU. He did not explain what this would mean in practice, but one can assume it refers to his idea of “new treaty”, which would move more power to member countries as opposed to further integration. Mr. Kaczynski went also as far as blaming the former Prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk for the Brexit as he and the rest of the European Commission were not able to keep Britain in the EU.
Poland’s government has said it would like Poles living in the UK to return to Poland. Deputy Prime minister Mr. Morawiecki said he would expect Polish labor market to be able to absorb remigrants within 2-3 years. Whether the government is having second thoughts about this or not, but now they are promising to fight for rights of Poles living in the UK. Many of the Britain’s Poles and they families are important supporters of Law and Justice and hence the matter is of great importance to them. One important factor is also, that according to opinion polls two-thirds of Poles living in UK wanted to stay also after Brexit. Then if forced to leave, many would also seek employment in other EU-countries such as Germany.
Effects of Brexit to Polish economy are currently limited to fluctuation of currency exchange rates. British pound has weakened against every major currency, but also important for Poland the Euro/Zloty exchange rate was affected. With the first news of Brexit zloty plummeted record low against euro, but in little less than a month it returned to pre-Brexit levels. National Bank of Poland confirmed that Brexit has not had any effect on Poland’s GDP growth. Also there has been no need to adjust interest rates.
The fact is that Britain will have to negotiate a new relationship with the EU – including Poland. Britain has not had such negotiations since 1973 when they joined to European Economic Community (EEC). Negotiations between Britain and EU might take much longer than the two-year negotiation period of withdrawal from the EU. The EU will be reluctant to grant Britain full access to the EU single market, without also free movement of labor and payments into EU budget.