May Hosts Polish PM as Domestic Division Over Brexit Deepens

  • Gove criticises BOE’s Carney after report of transition plan
  • Lawmakers seeking soft Brexit present report on single market

More Time Needed Before Article 50 Is Triggered?

Prime Minister Theresa May will host her Polish counterpart Beata Szydlo in London on Monday in the latest stage of her charm offensive aimed at smoothing Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The U.K.-Poland summit comes as domestic arguments over the best strategy for leaving the bloc intensified. Brexit campaigner and former Justice Secretary Michael Gove accused Bank of England Governor Mark Carney on Sunday of trying to stall the process by seeking a transitional deal for business, and cross-party lawmakers join forces on Monday to argue against leaving the single market. May is preparing the ground for the start of formal talks by the end of March.

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“I am determined that Brexit will not weaken our relationship with Poland, rather it will serve as a catalyst to strengthen it,” May said ahead of her meeting with Szydlo and talks between other senior ministers. “It marks the start of a new chapter in our relations and we will work even more closely together to ensure the security and prosperity of our nations in the years ahead.”

May, who has set herself the goal of holding one-to-one talks with all 27 EU leaders before the European Council meets on Dec. 15, will emphasize historic links as she prepares to trigger formal negotiations. European leaders have said they won’t let Britain keep the benefits of union without the obligations, and divisions in the U.K. are deepening as Brexit campaigners rail against those seeking to keep Britain’s economic relationship with Europe as close as possible.

Carney’s Plan

Gove, who failed in a bid to lead the Conservative Party after David Cameron quit in the wake of the June 23 referendum, rejected a plan reportedly being devised by Carney to negotiate letting companies adjust to the U.K. leaving the bloc.

Carney has held private meetings and dinners with executives to gain support for a plan to let British companies remain in the EU single market for at least two years after Brexit, now scheduled for early 2019, The Sunday Times reported, citing a banker who attended one of the dinners.

Carney’s proposal would allow companies to continue using current rules until at least 2021, allowing additional time to adapt to trading conditions after Brexit, the Times said. Neither the Bank of England nor May’s office responded to requests for comment. Gove said such arrangements won’t be needed as Britain quits the customs union and the “bureaucratic web” of the single market.

Get Over It

“There are some people who can’t get over the fact that the British people have voted to leave the European Union and want to have a transitional arrangement that is as close as possible” to staying in the bloc, Gove said when asked about Carney’s proposal in an interview on “The Andrew Marr Show” on BBC television. “It’s far far better to provide people with certainty and to do so by having a clear, clean and simple approach.”

Stepping up arguments in favor of staying in the single market, prominent pro-EU lawmakers from the three main parties appear together on Monday to present a report they have commissioned on the impact of leaving the trade bloc. Conservative lawmaker Anna Soubry, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and one-time Labour leadership hopeful Chuka Umunna will urge the government to make staying in the single market a negotiating priority.

Last week former Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair said separately that there is a case for holding a second referendum on the terms of Britain’s departure, a proposal which May has rejected.

Losing Sleep

May, who faces the first electoral test of her management of Brexit in a by-election in west London on Thursday, said she has lost sleep over the coming negotiations, having taken the job at a “hugely challenging time” for the country.

“It is a moment of change. It is a hugely challenging time. And we need to get on with the deal in terms of Brexit,” she said in response to being asked “what keeps you awake at night?” by a reporter from the Sunday Times Magazine. “We can make a success of it, we will make a success of it, but these are really complex issues.”

Poland Saddened

For her part, Szydlo said Poland will play a “constructive” part in the Brexit talks, though her country was “saddened” by the British vote.

“Warsaw will certainly be one of the capitals which will participate in Brexit negotiations in a constructive and down-to-earth manner,” Szydlo wrote in Monday’s Daily Telegraph. “We hope, as I believe the rest of the EU hopes, that Britain’s new relationship to the EU will be as close as possible.”

The Polish premier also said that Britons in the EU-27 and EU nationals in Britain “should not be made to feel like hostages,” urging for their rights to be guaranteed.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission wrote to political parties on Saturday to urge them to calm the rhetoric over Brexit in the wake of a rise in hate crimes, including the murder of a Polish immigrant in Harlow, northeast of London, in late August.

“There is growing concern that the divisions on a range of big questions are widening and exacerbating tensions in our society. The murder of Arkadiusz Jozwik, racist, anti-semitic and homophobic attacks on the streets, and reports of hijabs being pulled off are all stains on our society,” the commission said in an open letter to political parties posted on its website. “Our elected representatives and the media should reflect and foster the best values in our society and engage people on contentious issues in a responsible and considered way.”

(Updates with details from second paragraph.)
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