Visegrad Four urges referendum voters to keep UK in EU

The prime ministers of the V4 Group. Prague, June 2016. [Government of the Czech Republic]

The four eastern EU states from the so-called Visegrad Group yesterday (8 June) said they needed Britain to stay in the bloc, two weeks before the landmark UK referendum on membership.

Poland’s Prime Minister, Beata Szydlo, speaking at a meeting in Prague with her Czech, Hungarian and Slovak counterparts, said that London played a very important role in the EU and “we need Britain there”.

Szydlo, whose Law and Justice party is Eurosceptic, warned that “it won’t be possible to create a good platform for cooperation with Britain outside the EU”.

Ahead of the 23 June vote, WhatUKThinks puts the Remain camp slightly ahead, at 51% and the Leave campaign at 49%.

Slovakia’s Premier Robert Fico, whose country will take over the rotating six-month EU presidency on 1 July, said Brexit will remain an issue, regardless of the referendum outcome.

If Britain stays, the EU would be “in for a difficult period of implementing its (reform) deal” with London, he said.

Fico also noted that there is no blueprint in the EU treaties for the departure of a member state.

The premiers of the four Visegrad Group countries also said in a joint statement that it would be easier for the EU to tackle its “many difficult challenges” with Britain as a member.

Some 800,000 Poles and hundreds of thousands of Czech, Slovaks and Hungarians have migrated to Britain seeking jobs and a better life since the EU’s eastward expansion in 2004.

If the Remain camp is to prevail, a deal UK Prime Minister David Cameron secured in February will enter into force. Accordingly, a so-called emergency brake mechanism will stop EU migrants claiming in-work benefits for 7 years.

Cameron clinches reform deal after benefits compromise

UK Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday night (19 February) said he would campaign for Britain to stay in a reformed EU, after securing promises of treaty change and compromising on his demands over benefits for EU migrants and their children.

The UK is a net donor, and in the event of Brexit, EU funding for the new EU members, including the Visegrad Four, will decrease.

Caution with Dublin reform

Regarding migration, the Visegrad Group now believes that its restrictive policies have now become mainstream in the EU. The only sticking point appears to be the recent attempt of the European Commission to revamp the EU asylum system, known as the Dublin Regulation, on the basis of the mandatory distribution of refugees, and a penalty syste,m including heavy fines for countries who refuse to take in refugees.

Visegrád countries oppose Commission’s revamped asylum policy

The Visegrad Four countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – made no secret that they oppose the new asylum policy as recently proposed by the European Commission. The EURACTIV network reports.

“The Visegrad Group countries […] invite the Commission and the member states to pursue a more balanced and more realist take on Dublin reform. They remain convinced that strengthening of the Dublin system should follow an evidence-based step-by-step approach focused on practical improvements rather than on attempts for revolutionary systemic changes,” the Visegrad premiers urge.

Diplomats told that Bratislava has urges its Visegrad partners to focus on issues which would unite rather than divide the EU during the Slovak presidency of the Council of the EU.

  • 23 June: UK referendum on Europe
  • 28-29 June: EU summit
  • 1 July: Slovakia takes over the EU presidency
  • 1 July: Poland takes over the Visgrad Group presidency

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