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British troops to be deployed to Poland, confirms Prime Minister

Published 28/11/2016

Theresa May and Beata Szydlo will discuss Brexit and defence co-operation over a working lunch
Theresa May and Beata Szydlo will discuss Brexit and defence co-operation over a working lunch
Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo will take part in talks on security co-operation and strengthening business and cultural links

Theresa May has confirmed plans to deploy British troops to Poland, as she and her counterpart Beata Szydlo agreed on the need to deter Russian aggression.

Some 150 troops from the Catterick-based Light Dragoons, as well as a number of armoured vehicles, will be sent to north-east Poland from April 2017, as London and Warsaw reconfirm their firm commitment to Nato's role in ensuring security in Europe, said the Prime Minister.

Mrs May said that she wanted the UK and Poland to become "even closer allies" after Britain leaves the EU and welcomed Warsaw's "constructive and positive" response to Brexit.

She announced a series of new UK-Polish collaborations across the fields of business, security, defence and academic research.

Following talks with Mrs Szydlo in 10 Downing Street, she said the UK was making "significant progess" to prepare for Brexit negotiations which she intends to launch under Article 50 of the EU treaties by the end of March 2017.

"I have reiterated my plan to guarantee the rights of Poles and other Europeans currently living in the UK, so long as the rights of British citizens living across the EU are guaranteed," said Mrs May.

"I hope we can reach an early agreement on this issue, providing certainty for Polish citizens here and British people living in Europe.

"This has been an excellent summit. We are two leaders determined to make the most of the relationship between our countries.

"I firmly believe that if we all approach Brexit in the same constructive and positive manner, then we can secure the right outcome for the United Kingdom and for our European neighbours too.

"As we embark on that new chapter, I look forward to further strengthening the relationship between the United Kingdom and Poland - two resolute and strategic allies working together for the benefit of both our countries."

Mrs Szydlo stressed that there had been no negotiations over Brexit during the Downing Street talks, as these would be a matter for the UK and the EU and would be initiated only when Article 50 was tabled.

But she said that Warsaw would insist on "reciprocity" in the rights and privileges accorded to UK citizens in Europe and EU citizens in Britain. And she said that she hoped Brexit would result in new relations between Britain and its former EU partners based on "mutual trust".

She said: "Today, we spoke about Brexit as a certain fact and outcome of a decision made by British citizens in a referendum.

"We are all wondering how this process will go. We are all trying to decide about our priorities and objectives but the negotiations will be held between the EU and the UK.

"Poland - as a member of the EU - considers it very important what objectives and what priorities will be decided. We want the new relations to be built on mutual trust.

"As for reciprocity in terms of the rights and privileges, they have to be negotiated and there needs to be the right balance. This the condition that will certainly be brought up by Poland."

Mrs May indicated that Article 50 negotiations would involve areas where the UK wishes to continue close links with EU partners, such as co-operation with the EU's Europol law enforcement agency.

"Of course there will be issues around the justice and home affairs area where we're party to arrangements within the European Union as a member of the EU at the moment (and) where we'll have to consider what the future relationship will be," she said.

"Europol is one of those, we are a major contributor to Europol. So, yes, there will be aspects where we're members of things because we're in the European Union which we'll need to consider in the negotiations that will go ahead.

"But as I have said before I want to ensure we have the best possible deal for trade, for trade with and operating within the single European market and I'm ambitious for what we can achieve from the negotiations.

"And crucially I think what's important is, it's not just what's good for the UK. Actually we want a deal that's good for Europe as well as the UK."

Mrs Szydlo thanked the UK for its response to "very sad" alleged hate crimes against Poles after the Brexit vote, including the killing of Arkadiusz Jozwik in Harlow, Essex.

The Polish PM said: "I would also like to thank for the support given by the British Government to those members of the Polish community who have suffered after the very sad incident in hate crimes in the United Kingdom.

"You reacted immediately and we continue working together in order to make sure that the Polish community is safe."

She backed Mrs May's position on the rights of Polish nationals and other EU citizens living in the UK.

Mrs Szydlo said: "From the point of view of Poland, let me reiterate that the most important thing (after Brexit) is the guarantees for the Polish citizens who are living and working in the United Kingdom.

"Of course, these guarantees would need to be reciprocal.

"It's also important what guarantees the British citizens living and working in other member states of the European Union will have."

Before their talks at 10 Downing Street, Mrs May joined Mrs Szydlo in paying their respects to Polish airmen who lost their lives in the Second World War at the Polish War Memorial in Northolt, west London.

Meanwhile, senior ministers took part in discussions on defence co-operation and strengthening business and cultural links between the UK and Poland, in what Mrs May described as the first bilateral summit of its kind between the two countries.

Poland is Britain's leading trading partner in central Europe, with bilateral trade at £15 billion last year and UK exports to Poland doubling over the past decade.

Mrs May and Mrs Szydlo agreed new initiatives to support collaboration between UK and Polish entrepreneurs and small businesses, as well as a partnership between Oxford University and Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University in Warsaw to establish an academic centre of excellence in the field of cyber-security.

They agreed to work towards the first UK-Poland bilateral defence treaty.

And a new forum to celebrate the UK and Poland's shared values and history will meet for the first time in Warsaw next year.

Mrs Szydlo said they had discussed the possibility of Polish being taught as a foreign language in British schools.

The two premiers agreed that sanctions on Russia must be maintained until the Minsk agreement on Ukraine is fully implemented.

Announcing plans to deploy British troops to eastern Poland, Mrs May said: "We must recognise increasing Russian assertiveness and I think it is important that we work together to deal with that."

It was important to work internationally to "put pressure on Russia" to stop indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Syria, said the PM.

Mrs Szydlo agreed: "We watch the behaviour of Russia and we believe we should be decisive and united in the EU when it comes to our relations with Russia.

"We would like our relations to be good with Russia, as our neighbour.

"But it is unacceptable for us that today Russia is an aggressive country and it is an aggressor towards Ukraine."

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