Speaking in London earlier this month, Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymański announced that Poland was determined to rescue British Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement. In a speech at the Polish Economic Forum conference in England’s capital city, Szymański said:
“Lack of an agreement would mean that we would find ourselves in an unprecedented situation…A return to World Trade Organisation rules from March 30 would be a tragedy for the British economy but also for the EU economy. There is an important message from Warsaw: it is not exclusively Great Britain’s problem”.
Speaking to TVN24 this week, Szymański reconfirmed his position and said that the Poland will continue to help Brexit take place on the basis of a deal with the EU.
The idea that the UK would suffer tremendously by leaving the European Union on WTO terms is hotly contested. Proponents of staying in the European Union suggest that UK would run out of sandwiches, not be able to supply diabetics with insulin medication, and quickly descend into chaos. Brexiteers, however, have suggested the UK would thrive when operating on WTO terms.
As with most things in life, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The UK would by no means descend into total chaos should we leave the EU on the renegotiated date of April 12th, but it wouldn’t exactly be simple either. Operating on WTO terms would allow the UK to drop tariffs and begin operating outside of the EU’s restrictive common market, but it would see UK trade ministers scrambling to negotiate better deals with big trading partners. The UK would also be able to end its budgetary payments to the EU, and the cutting of EU tariffs under WTO rules could slash consumer prices by up to 1.2%.
The UK government would have its work cut out, but there would also be opportunities for the UK with third countries – nations outside the EU who are looking to strike trade deals. The United States has already made it clear they are ready and willing to strike an ambitious trade deal with the UK once Brexit has been delivered.
This is where Szymański is wrong. But, he is right to suggest that the UK leaving the EU without a deal could damage the EU economy.
Washington-based International Monetary Fund said in 2018 that growth across the remaining EU member states could fall by as much as 1.5%, and the European Union would be hit by the loss of the £39 billion fee agreed as part of the Withdrawal Agreement. The EU would also find itself having to renegotiate new deals with the City of London and spend time negotiating new deals with the UK. It would not be easy, and it could hurt the EU’s most fragile national economies.
As a Brexiteer from Britain, this is difficult for me to say – but I believe it is in my own nation’s best interests at this point to leave without a deal.
Konrad Szymański is right and wrong, but I believe he is well intentioned. At this point I hope the UK can leave the EU while maintaining positive relations with Poland, but I do not expect the eventual departure to be easy. The last three years has shown us that this process is not going to get any easier, any time soon.