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Poles continue to be welcome in UK, Theresa May insists during Warsaw trip

Published 28/07/2016

Prime Minister Theresa May's Euorpean tour could turn awkward when she meets the pro-free movement leaders of Poland and Slovakia
Prime Minister Theresa May's Euorpean tour could turn awkward when she meets the pro-free movement leaders of Poland and Slovakia

Theresa May has condemned "shameful and despicable" attacks on Poles in the wake of the Brexit vote and insisted they continue to be welcome in Britain.

During a visit to Warsaw for talks with counterpart Beata Szydlo, the Prime Minister said she will "seek to address the concerns" of voters about free movement while "recognising" the economic ties between the UK and EU.

Mrs May said she expected to be able to guarantee the rights of Poles to remain in Britain after it quits the bloc and hit out at the wave of hate crime sparked by the referendum.

She said: " I will seek to address the concerns of the British people about free movement, while recognising the importance of a close economic relationship between the UK and the EU.

"Of course, there will be different interests and complex issues to resolve but I firmly believe that if we approach this in a constructive and positive spirit then we can pave the way for a calm and orderly departure.

"In that context, I want to be clear that Poles living in the UK continue to be welcome and we value the contribution that they make to our country.

"We condemned the shameful and despicable attacks against Polish communities and others in the wake of the referendum result.

"Hate crime of any kind, directed against any community, race or religion, has absolutely no place in British society."

Mrs May insisted Britain will " always" stand by its Nato obligations after Brexit.

The meeting came just hours after the PM held talks in Slovakia with counterpart Robert Fico.

Brexit offers the UK the opportunity to "intensify" its relationships with European allies, she said.

The Prime Minister said: "It is important to underline that while the UK is leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe or withdrawing from the world.

"Britain will remain an outward-looking nation, a strong voice for liberal, free market principles and democratic values."

The thorny issue of migration was raised by Mr Fico in his opening statement alongside Mrs May at the press conference in Bratislava.

Slovakia and Poland have voiced concern about the rights of their nationals currently in the UK.

Mrs May has refused to guarantee the rights of EU citizens after Brexit unless similar guarantees are offered to Britons living and working abroad.

Mr Fico said the "perception British voters have" of EU migration was "slightly different to how we perceive migration on the continent".

"For them the issue of migration is especially the issue of migrant workers from the EU in the UK.

"I have asked the Prime Minister to dedicate a special level of attention to Slovak nationals and citizens who work currently in the UK."

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