Poland has said it would be happy to usurp the United Kingdom as a leading member of the European Union if the British government chooses to negotiate looser ties with Brussels or exit the bloc entirely.
On Thursday Polish foreign minister Radosław Sikorski said David Cameron’s promise to hold a referendum on EU membership meant the UK was now a “a country under special care”.
Sikorski observed that Britain’s position as part of a effective ruling triumvirate within the EU alongside France and Germany had been put under threat by Cameron’s speech.
He said that while Britain was welcome to “take what belongs to it and run back to its island”; Poland saw greater European integration as being in its “vested national interest”.
“In order for this to happen, we need closer ties with the EU, not looser,” Sikorski said.
"We have to continue our reforms and become a member of the euro zone. And once that happens, at the end of the current decade, we can join this group, of three or five states, which has the most to say in the European Union.”
Poland has historically been one of the United Kingdom’s closest allies within the EU. However strains emerged over the recent Budget negotiations, in which Cameron urged a cut in expenditure.
“If you ask me if people in Poland have noticed that Britain wants to cut the European budget by €200bn, where Germany is in favour of a more ambitious budget, I’m forced to tell you, yes they’ve noticed,” Sikorski told the Financial Times in November added.
A senior Polish foreign ministry official told the same paper: “The budget is simply the latest problem with the UK. Our roads have been diverging for some time.”
Sikorski, who studied at Oxford in the 1980s around the same time as Cameron, is said to be an Anglophile who wakes up the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme every morning.