Our Minister for Europe David Lidington was in town this week for discussions with Polish Ministers, commentators and representatives of British business. It was an excellent opportunity to challenge some of the assertions in the local media regarding the UK’s disengagement from the EU and our attitude towards Structural and Cohesion Funds for Poland.
On our stance towards the EU, Mr Lidington underlined the depth of UK engagement across the EU agenda, while accepting that that Poland and the UK have different aspirations towards the Euro and further European integration. Poland is keen to join the Euro at the right moment. We do not intend to join at all.
However, the UK is actively engaged across the big issues that will help to promote prosperity and stability in Europe, nearly always in concert with Poland. These include completing the Single Market, including the Digital Single Market, which will add at least 4% to EU GDP by 2020. That is about extra £ 420 billion or £ 840 per EU citizen. Making Europe more competitive through the EU growth agenda and a smarter approach to regulation that will reduce burdens on business and create jobs. Concluding EU Free Trade agreements with countries like the US, Canada, Singapore and Japan that will greatly improve our ability to export our goods and services to key global markets. Taking a leading role in the EU’s Common Foreign and Security policy, including the issues that affect Poland like the situation in Ukraine and Belarus. And promoting further enlargement to bring the benefits of EU membership that Poland has enjoyed to countries like those in the Western Balkans.
On the Future EU Financial Perspective, Mr Lidington stressed that, at a time when we are making big budget cuts in the UK, we are offering the EU budget the same protection as our National Health Service. Tax payers should not be expected to pay more for the EU when making domestic sacrifices. However, the UK has always made clear that we believe that less wealthy EU countries, including Poland, should get the lion’s share of EU structural and cohesion funds and that richer countries like the UK should get less. So the idea that we are seeking big cuts in funding for Poland is simply wrong. We simply think that at a time of austerity across Europe, the EU budget should focus on smarter spending not more spending.
David Lidington also met representatives of UK businesses here and stressed our commitment to help existing and new companies compete for the many opportunities in Poland and across Emerging Europe.