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After Brexit: How Poland Replaces the UK

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Denis MacShane

The EU-related obstinacy of Poland’s governing party is rooted not just in the desire to rewrite their own country’s post-war history, or even Europe’s. It is all a big-time deflection maneuver.

As is becoming clearer every single day, Poland’s PiS government is fully poised to take up the spoiler role which the British have long exercised in the councils of the EU.

Loving Britain’s comparative constructiveness

Most EU member nations are fast coming to appreciate, even if only in hindsight, how constructive British opposition inside the councils of the EU often was when compared to how the current Polish government is acting.

For example, without Margaret Thatcher’s “insistences,” the EU’s Single Market would have been far less solid, refined and effective. To this day, it remains the crown jewel of the entire EU edifice.

The EU’s new spoiler nation

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the long-time PiS’s strong man and currently Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister, has no such inclinations. Simply put, he is not a constructive person.

Taking on Britain’s spoiler role is a grand opportunity for the immensely status-hungry right wing-populist government of Poland.

Trump is an actor, Kaczynski a believer

Sadly, Kaczynski is almost as conspiracy-minded as Donald Trump, with one crucial difference. While Trump is a frenetic actor, Kaczynski is a true believer. He believes his stuff lock, stock and barrel.

What is even harder to comprehend in PiS’s anti-EU stance is that, after having lived under the Soviet yoke for many decades, it should come natural to Poland’s leaders to have strong Western allies.

But Mr. Kaczynski obviously sees this differently. He seems to seriously believe that the Germans and the EU in Brussels are the new incarnation of a Soviet-like oppressive force out to tread on proud Poland.

Betraying Poland’s proud post-1990 legacy

Kaczynski & Co. are not satisfied with moving fast just on the home front to betray all the principles and policies that made the Polish post-Communist era reinvention story after 1990 such a noble one.

For several decades, the “Polish miracle” had consisted of a marvelous political predisposition where, irrespective of governments changing their political stripes, Poland pretty much stayed on the course of economic and social modernization.

Fighting over Kaczynski’s fiefdom

Even though Mr. Kaczynski’s energy is fading, today’s ruling PiS is still under his thumb, much in the manner of Erdogan’s AK party in Turkey or Orban’s Fidesz in Hungary.

At present, the country’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Zbigniew Ziobro, the hardline Justice Minister, are vying to take over Kaczynski’s mantle.

With no clear winner emerging from that battle, odds are that Poland’s PiS-led government, when viewed in a broader European context, will not act more rationally any time soon.

Poland’s and UK’s youth equally frustrated

Amidst all those machinations of personal power politics, Poland’s youth is ever more in open rebellion against the fading lures of PiS.

As is the case in the UK, younger voters see their future prospects closely tied to being an integral part of Europe – socially, politically, economically and culturally.

Young people and women want to be freed from the ever more oppressive and outdated traditions of Poland’s Catholic Church.

And they sense the futility, even oppressiveness, of PiS’s inclination to pursue the Tory UK solution – blaming the EU and Europe for all the unresolved domestic problems, inequities and other forms of anti-modernism that loom ever larger.

Hard-core Catholics

The PiS team’s nervousness also relates to the fact that its earlier maneuver — luring young families to vote for it owing to very costly promises of a Keynesianism directed at floating the financial boats of families — is waning in appeal.

But instead of becoming more modern and flexible, the Kaczyinski crew is digging in.

The archconservative, misogynist elements of the PiS establishment see a big need to circle the wagons around the Catholic Church establishment.

It is gravely threatened by its inability to come to terms with the sexual trespasses of the country’s priesthood, which only add further fuel to the social and cultural fire.

Twisted thinking

Under such difficult domestic circumstances, it is not a real surprise – although much more than just a national tragedy – that Kaczynski & Co. seem to seriously believe that the Germans and the EU in Brussels are the new incarnation of a Soviet-like oppressive force out to tread on proud Poland.

Kaczynski’s goal is to reverse the path of modern history. He wants to be the builder of a 21st century “Iron Fence,” centered on hyper-nationalism and an archaic sense of personal morals.

Worse yet, these morals only feign to be rooted in old-line Catholicism. In reality, their underlying rationale seems to be protecting the grave crimes committed by Catholic clergy in Poland and standing in the way of women modernizing their role in society wherever possible.

To that end, Kaczynski also wants to do away with the secular, multi-faith ideology of the other continentals.

Mission: Finish Farage’s job

Mr. Kaczynski’s vision undoubtedly is to finish the job begun by Mr. Farage and the anti-European Tory generation of David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

The latter opened the door to an important member nation leaving the European Union. Building on that legacy, the former preferably wants to unravel the entire edifice.

At most, one can surmise, Mr. Kaczynski would be willing to build an arch-Catholic European Union along the lines of Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini.

How that meshes with France’s secular insistence on a full and complete barrier between faith and state will be a new question for Europe to solve.

Denis MacShane is a Contributing Editor at The Globalist. He was the UK’s Minister for Europe from 2002 to 2005 — and is the author of “Brexiternity. The Uncertain Fate of Britain” published by IB Tauris-Bloomsbury, London, October 2019. Follow him @DenisMacShane