Lord Palmerston once famously stated: “England has no eternal friends, England has no perpetual enemies, England has only eternal and perpetual interests”. Recently, the first part of this sentence is closer to the truth than ever.
British Prime Minister declaration that children of Poles working in UK who are not currently on British soil will not receive benefits caused a political outrage in Poland. The race to the telephone started immediately. Polish prime minister Donald Tusk and leader of the opposition Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who is also in one European Parliament group with Tories, spoke with David Cameron on the phone within hours, at the same day. To the little result, as it seems, the only one being that Law and Justice, Kaczynski’s party, will reconsider its presence in the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists.
Less than 26 thousand Polish children are entitled to British benefits, so in financial terms it is not a significant number. According to recent study from University College London, immigrants from EU, Norway and Lichtenstein between 2001 and 2011 in Britain brought 22 billion pounds to economy thanks to taxes. Net difference between taxes paid and benefits received is 31 % in case of immigrants and only 11% for British nationals.
Poles were singled out for the sake of British rising nationalistic rhetoric and a challenge that UKIP and a prospect of EU in or out referendum poses for Conservatives. And that stigmatisation, more than anything, is a reason for media and public anxiety. The feeling of injustice and unappreciation, deepened by Polish complex of inferiority (and almost everyone knows someone who is working or worked in UK) can seriously damage British standing in the eyes of an average Pole.
It won’t however damage East – West relations. Britain has already one foot outside EU and a prospect of Brexit is looming. With no doubt it might hurt EU, especially its liberal fundaments, but it would hit Britain even harder. The more London is distancing itself from Brussels, the more Scotland is likely to say: “no, thank you” to the union with England. Brexit wouldn’t strengthen a “special relation” with Washington either.
By antiimmigration rhetoric Britain is antagonising its last faithful allies on continent – rightwing, eurosceptic, pro American parties such as Law and Justice. For the sake of keeping credibility at home they cannot tolerate Tory recent “War on immigration”. That puts Central European eurosceptics into an awkward position, they have to take side of despised Brussels against formerly admired British isolationism. Cameron has, unintentionally I suppose, revealed the shortcomings of antieuropean policies – they are damaging for everyone, but most of all for smaller, weaker and poorer countries.
Cameron got Britain into an isolation. Isolation that is not splendid at all.