May Wins Polish Support for Speedy Brexit Deal With Services

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May left Warsaw on Thursday afternoon with the support of the Polish government for a generous settlement on services after Brexit and unity in fighting propaganda campaigns by Russia.

The trip was overshadowed by May firing Damian Green, her closest political ally, on Wednesday. But armed with promises to work together on security and defense, she left Warsaw with reassurances that Poland’s new administration would support her in key aspects of the EU divorce negotiations.

As the second stage of Brexit talks approaches -- on trade between the U.K. and the EU -- May is seeking allies across the continent to loosen the unity that the bloc managed to hold during the first phase of talks. The Polish leader said he regretted losing Britain as an ally against over-regulation in the bloc and offered reassurance that they would back some of Britain’s claims.

“My view is that UK-EU relationship should stay close to where it is now and that the new agreement on economic and trade cooperation should be reached as quickly as possible to ensure clarity for businesses on both sides,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in a press conference alongside May.

“I deeply hope that our French and German partners are interested in a constructive solution,” he said, warning that “all the protectionist movements are very dangerous.”

Russian Disinformation

May earlier told a group of veterans from World War II that “the United Kingdom and Poland have a long tradition of fighting side by side,” before taking that theme to the press conference with Morawiecki. “Our deep ties of friendship will outlast our departure from the EU,” she said.

The British premier criticized Russian attempts to spread disinformation in Europe and said a new agreement between Britain and Poland would help to tackle the problem.

“We’re both deeply concerned about Russian attempts to weaponize information,” May said. The two countries agreed to “bolster our cooperation to counter Russian disinformation in the region,” she said.

Green

May has pressed the importance of security and defense cooperation to win the support of former Soviet bloc states in the EU as Britain prepares to leave in March 2019. Britain has boosted its diplomatic presence in the countries and promised to support with military assets and the training of troops.

May said she had raised the spat between Poland and the EU over judicial appointments in her meeting with the Polish premier and was reassured that an agreement can be reached to head off sanctions against her hosts.

"In Europe we have a collective belief in the rule of law," she said. "Prime Minister Morawiecki will be speaking with the European Commission and I hope that will lead to a satisfactory resolution."

The premier was asked about Green, the de-facto deputy she fired Wednesday afternoon after an inquiry into his behavior found he’d made misleading statements over pornography found on his parliamentary computer by police nearly a decade ago.

Green is the third Cabinet minister to quit in two months though the news failed to spark much concern as the FTSE 100 headed to record high.

May has racked up a couple of recent Brexit-related successes, meaning the prime minister is better equipped to handle Green’s departure. On Thursday, her office said that Trade Minister Mark Garnier will stay in his job after inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct. Unlike Green, it was decided that he did not break the ministerial code.

May left Poland on Thursday afternoon to travel to Cyprus for a Christmas visit to U.K. troops.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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