With the clock now ticking on two years of Brexit negotiations, Poland looks more vulnerable to a painful divorce between the UK and European Union than anywhere else.
Poland is the biggest net recipient of EU aid and also the continent’s largest provider of cross-border labour. And it’s in the arrivals halls at provincial airports like this former military base 160km (99 miles) north of Warsaw where those two things meet.
Refurbished using 121 million zloty (€28.5m) of EU cash, the airport revolves around servicing some of the almost one million Poles living and working in Britain, a third of all EU nationals residing in the country. Now, not only is their status in doubt, there’s also going to be less money as the EU loses its biggest net contributor after Germany.
“It’s obvious that Brexit is crucially important to us,” Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski said in an interview in Warsaw. “If we don’t carry it out well, it will harm the internal market. And it will probably be difficult to co-ordinate on residency issues because the stakes are uneven.”
The onset of Brexit could hardly have come at a worse time for the country. Its nationalist government is increasingly isolated in Brussels after trying to oust EU president Donald Tusk, a former Polish premier. At the same time, the country relies on EU investments to prevent the economy from slowing.
More than €250 billion were or will be spent since Poland joined the bloc with other former communist states in 2004. In today’s dollars, that’s equivalent to more than the US-funded Marshall Plan provided to western Europe after the second World War. The Law and Justice leadership has said it seeks to weaken, not strengthen, EU institutions after Brexit.
Polish national Masierak, 31, of Evesham, Worcestershire, was found guilty earlier this month of eight counts of causing death by dangerous driving and four counts of causing serious injury by dangerous driving.