A British exit from the European Union could trigger similar moves by other member states in Eastern Europe, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said in a German newspaper interview published yesterday (19 June).
Britain votes on Thursday (23 June) on whether to stay in the 28-member bloc, a choice with far-reaching consequences for politics, the economy, defence and diplomacy on the continent.
“It cannot be ruled out that Brexit leads to a domino effect in Eastern Europe,” Asselborn told Tagesspiegel am Sonntag.
It had been a “historic mistake” from Prime Minister David Cameron to even think about calling a referendum about Britain’s membership of the European Union, Asselborn added.
Even if Britain should decide to stay in the EU, “this would not solve the problem that results from the negative attitude of the British towards the European Union”, Asselborn said.
Asselborn said he sometimes had the impression that Cameron and the head of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), Jarosław Kaczyński, had a silent agreement on rolling back European integration.
“Both seem do have the same agenda regarding their critical stance towards the EU,” he added.
Cameron’s Conservative Party and Kaczyński’s right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) are part of the same group in the European Parliament – the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR).
Since winning elections last year, Poland’s conservative and Eurosceptic government has clashed with EU regulators on a range of issues, including freedom of speech and democracy as well as energy and environment issues.
The European Commission announced on Sunday (3 January) that it would discuss the state of the rule of law in Poland after the country’s hard-right government pushed through changes to the judiciary and media over the Christmas break.
Poland is the biggest economy in the EU’s eastern wing and the largest recipient of structural funds in the bloc.
Britain, on the other hand, is transferring more money to Brussels than it is getting back, which is one of the arguments of the Leave camp to vote for Brexit on Thursday.
But in fact, Poland has spoken against Brexit. During a meeting in Warsaw on 2 June, Poland’s Prime Minister, Beata Szydło, and her Estonian counterpart, Taavi Roivas, issued a joint plea for the UK to remain in the EU, Polish public broadcaster Polskie Radio reported.
“We agreed that we very much want Great Britain to remain in the European Union,” she said. “That is very important for the European Union, for its durability, for its stability, as well as for the economic prospects of both our countries.”
Previously, Poland’s President, Andrzej Duda, warned that a Brexit could result in the collapse of the EU, while Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski said there would likely be no large-scale exodus of Polish workers in the case of a Brexit, despite campaign claims.
Poles in Britain to remain there
In the meantime, a poll published yesterday revealed that 80% of the estimated 800,000 Poles living in Britain want to stay there even if it leaves the EU, while just three percent want to return home, a poll published Sunday said.
More than half of the Polish migrants surveyed by Poland’s IBRiS pollsters also said they intend to apply for British citizenship.
The study conducted 15-17 June is the largest ever involving Polish migrants in Britain, which could vote to leave the EU in a referendum on Thursday.
A further 10% of Polish migrants said they would move to another EU state if a Brexit meant they would have to leave Britain.
“Almost nobody wants to leave Britain,” IBRiS chief Marcin Duma wrote in a commentary summing up the survey results.
As non-citizens, the vast majority of Poles in Britain are not entitled to vote in Thursday’s referendum.
Hungary’s controversial Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will publish an open letter in British media this week urging Britons to vote to remain in the European Union, his government said yesterday.
The appeal by the populist Orbán, who has himself been fiercely critical of the EU, will be published on Monday (20 June), Orbán’s spokesman, Zoltan Kovacs, announced on the government’s website.
“The Hungarian government is often accused of being anti-European but this current ‘pro-Europe’ gesture shows how much we believe in the European Union’s achievements, even if we have different views on the continent’s future,” Kovacs said.
In the appeal Orbán will tell the British: “The decision is yours but Hungary is very proud to be a member of the EU with you.”
Kovacs said Hungarian diplomats across Europe would also be arguing the anti-Brexit case in the last days before Thursday’s in-out referendum.
Hungary’s intervention comes as Budapest prepares for a referendum in the autumn on an EU plan for distributing 160,000 refugees among EU members. The government is campaigning against the plan.
Hungary will hold a referendum in September or early October on whether to accept any future European Union quota system for resettling migrants, the prime minister’s office said yesterday (3 May).
The Czech Republic is seen as the most Eurosceptic country among the new member states. But Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has corrected media speculation, according to which the eventuality of Brexit could open the door to Czexit.
Sobotka said he wants the UK to remain a member of the EU and considers any suggestion of the Czech Republic leaving the EU to be unfounded, harmful and dangerous.