Poland breaks ranks, others to follow, as EU faces growing Italy crisis

While Barnier and Juncker present united front against re-opening Brexit deal, Poland hints at potential for compromise. Meanwhile, Italy slips into recession highlighting Brussels need to avert messy UK exit

by the commentator on 31 January 2019 11:06


Poland has become the first major EU country to break ranks with Brussels on British Prime Minister Theresa May's bid to get a compromise on the Northern Irish backstop.

Radio Poland quoted the country's prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, as saying on Wednesday: “Together, with the participation of all EU countries, we should try to prevent a ‘hard Brexit.’ We are waiting for proposals that the government of Prime Minister Theresa May is to present to the EU."

Given that it is now widely accepted that Britain will crash out of the EU on March 29 without a deal unless a compromise can be found on the Irish backstop, Morawiecki's call for "all EU countries" to try and prevent a hard Brexit places a jont responsibility on Brussels and London to cross red lines.

This stands at odds with statements from the European Commission and the EU's Brexit negotiating team that there can be no movement whatsoever by Brussels on the deal previously brokered with Mrs. May but rejected by the British parliament. Brussels has attempted to form a united front saying that it is exclusively Britain's responsibility to compromise.

Morawiecki's remarks came after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, something which is unlikely to be a coincidence, analysts say.

Merkel, facing a slowing economy at home and ongoing political instability, can ill afford the turmoil for German manufacturers that a chaotic Brexit might cause.

Diplomatic sources in European Union member state embassies in Washington DC told The Commentator that despite the hard line presented by Brussels many EU countries want to get Brexit out of the way as fast as possible, and did not want a fight with Britain.

"Poland may have been the first to speak out, but lots of others are saying the same thing behind the scenes," one diplomatic source said.

One reason the diplomat in question highlighted was the ongoing crisis on Europe's southern flank. Official figures released in Italy on Thursday showed the Eurozone's third largest economy had slipped into recession in the final quarter of 2018. As Italian growth came in at minus 0.2 percent, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the recession would linger well into 2019.

Italy has massive debts and a shaky banking sector, and its government is locked in a bitter dispute with Brussels over its budget and spending plans. 

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