Minister Sikorski: photo - PAP/Rafal Guz
“Britain’s leaders need to decide once again how best to use their influence in Europe,” Minister Sikorski told the conference organised by Oxford University’s Christ Church College.
“The EU is an English-speaking power. The Single Market was a British idea. A British commissioner runs our diplomatic service. You could, if only you wished, lead Europe’s defence policy,” Poland's foreign minister said after Britain's foreign secretary William Hague said in Warsaw last week that the UK would resist new proposals by the European Commission for greater economic and political integration in the 27 nation bloc.
The UK's Daily Express is reporting, Saturday, that Prime Minister David Cameron has been convinced by more euroscpetic members of the ruling Conservative Party of the need for a referendum on proposals to create tighter control over economic policy within the eurozone, the creation of a more integrated defence policy and other ideas muted by the European Commission this month.
The newspaper is reporting that the referendum, possibly on the UK's membership of the EU, would take place before Britain's next general election, scheduled for 2015.
Poland's foreign minister said last night, however, that the UK must not risk losing its place in a powerful economic and political union.
“The EU is a market of 500 million people who enjoy the highest average standard of living in the world. According to the IMF and the World Bank, Europe’s GDP is about 2.5 times than that of China and nine times that of India. Do you want to lose your privileged access to that market?”, Sikorski told the Global Horizons conference at Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of the pro-European common market Winston Churchill.
Sikorski recalled that Britain, unlike Poland, had never been a country governed by an occupying force, and therefore its historical experience and view of reality is different to most European countries.
As for Poland, "it will do whatever is in its power to prevent a repeat of history."
"Poland wants to be a partner with Germany and France, leading a strong, democratic European,” he said.
Sikorski also pointed to the differences between some euroscptics in the English-dominated UK Conservative Party – which has little support in Scotland – and those north of England's border who are more positive towards an integrated Europe.
He criticised English euroscpetic ideas of making the EU simply a free trade zone or withdrawing from the union altogether, saying that this attitude could hasten the break up of the United Kingdom itself.
"Do you really believe that the Scots, who are more pro-European than you, will follow in your footsteps [out of the EU]?" he asked, rhetorically.
"Great Britain's voice [outside the EU] would be less heard not only in Washington, but in Kuala Lumpur, Lagos and Bogota, too,” Poland's foreign minister said, in his strongest attack on British euroscepticism so far. (pg)