George Byczynski, an editor-in-chief of the British Poles portal, has written for Metro UK on Brexit and the Polish Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki’s letter urging British Poles to apply for settled status and/or consider moving back to Poland.
I arrived in the UK as an ambitious Polish student with plans to go back to Poland after finishing my university degrees in politics and law, but ended falling in love with London. I have now lived here for over a decade and call this country my home.
Yesterday, Arkady Rzegocki, the Ambassador of Poland to the UK released an open letter urging Polish people to return to our homeland, and I can understand why he has done so. Poland is a safe country without a knife-crime epidemic, it has a booming economy, an increasing number of investments and the standard of living has improved enormously in recent years – but I have no intention of leaving Britain.
In fact, I am planning to apply for British citizenship. I am doing this firstly because I am grateful for the British hospitality as I’ve been blending into society, and secondly, because I want to be on the safe side post-Brexit.
Brexit came as a surprise to me. Living in London’s liberal bubble, I didn’t expect for people to actually vote Leave.
After many discussions with Brexiteers of various backgrounds, I understand much of their goals and struggles for a more independent Britain. I have heard arguments about the European Union’s ever-growing bureaucracy, democratic deficit and supremacy over British law, as well as the UK’s difficulty to control its borders.
There are many issues with the EU, and I hope that the leaders in Brussels will come up with ways to resolve them.
In any case, whether Brexit should have already happened or will happen soon, and whatever shape or form it arrives in, my main concern is the future of the nearly one million Poles residing in this country, who are studying, working and contributing to the British economy.
As an editor of British Poles, a leading portal for the Polish community in the UK, I receive many letters and e-mails from people who are confused and sometimes even scared of the Brexit process.
The British Government has numerous times mentioned that the rights of all EU citizens will be protected, but as we can see, negotiations cannot be guaranteed – not even the date of the UK’s departure.
What will happen to Piotr who had a gap in working while living in the UK – will he be guaranteed to stay? What about Malgosia, who stayed at a friends’ place for a while, will she have an issue in applying for settled status?
A good friend of mine, Polish celebrity chef Damian Wawrzyniak, has recently been in the media spotlight. He has cooked for the Royal Family, pays his taxes and has lived here for many years – but was rejected settled status.
Only after the scandal was exposed in the press, did London Mayor Sadiq Khan assure Damian that he will receive settled status – but what about the thousands of other European citizens, who may not get the opportunity to have their voices heard?
After reading comments on British-Polish social media channels, it is evident that many EU citizens are still clueless about their future.
Some of my friends have gone back to Poland and many argue that it is because of Brexit and the uncertainty. However, I must add that a number of Polish people are still arriving to the UK, with hopes that Britain might become the second prosperous Singapore (the country exited Malaysia in the 60s) after leaving the EU.
I am also in touch with a number of British business people who have sought advice on investing in Poland or setting up a second office there.
There is a Polish saying that describes this variety of opinions among us, known as ‘Two Poles, three opinions’.
According to the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country’s exports to the UK reached over £12 billion last year, while British exports to Poland constituted over £4billion. The Polish Economic Institute states that potential new tariffs could have a minor negative impact on Polish exports, especially on food and the car industry.
Is there anyone in the UK who will be able to explain these tariffs to the thousands of people who will have to pay them, if this happens?
Will we still be able to buy pierogi and kielbasa (dumplings and sausages) in the hundreds of Polish street corner shops all around Britain post-Brexit?
I do not wish to be a doom merchant, as there are too many emotions already involved in the Brexit debate. Only the future will tell what’s coming for Britain and I wish the leaders of this country all the best in the negotiations.
I would just strongly urge people not to be divided by politics. I have faith that Brits, Poles, Hungarians, Swedes and all other nationalities will still be able to sleep safe, and not have to worry about tomorrow.
And if someone does decide to leave the UK, that they will do it because it is their choice, not because they were made to do it.
George Byczynski, editor-in-chief of the British Poles portal
This article first appeared in the Metro.co.uk
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