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‘Only Putin will be happy’: Poland criticises UK ‘dividing’ Europe over Protocol

‘Only Putin will be happy’: Poland criticises UK ‘dividing’ Europe over Protocol
‘United we are strong, divided we are very weak’, Mateusz Morawiecki warns Boris Johnson – calling for ‘compromise’

Poland’s prime minister has criticised the fresh battle between the UK and EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol during the war in Ukraine, saying: “Only Putin will be happy.”

“United we are strong, divided we are very weak,” Mateusz Morawiecki warned – calling on the two sides to “compromise’, rather than risk a damaging trade war.

The warning is potentially embarrassing for Boris Johnson, who sees Poland’s right-wing government as a key ally in a changing Europe, a way to outflank the EU’s big two of Germany and France.

The criticism also weakens a key argument for the prime minister remaining in No 10 despite the Partygate scandal – that his resignation would weaken the fight against Russia’s assault on Ukraine.

The UK will table legislation next month to tear up the key parts of the Protocol, risking trade retaliation for what the EU will consider to be a breach of international law.

It would not only remove border checks in the Irish Sea, but target the role of the European Court of Justice in overseeing disputes and restore the UK’s ability to decide VAT rates.

Mr Morawiecki told the BBC: “Trade wars are a lose-lose situation. Poland wants to be as strong a partner for the UK as is possible – we want to work towards a compromise.

“Only Putin and our enemies will be happy with yet another disagreement between such close partners as the United Kingdom and the European Union.”

Mr Morawiecki said he is trying “to calm down the situation between France and the United Kingdom as much as possible”, pointing to perhaps the key opponent of the UK’s unilateral move.

Pushed on the UK threat to rip-up the Brexit deal, he added: “In the current circumstances in particular, where we have such a brutal invasion, it should be a wake-up call for those who want to disagree on anything.”

The UK argues the legislation is needed to remove the Irish Sea trade border and persuade the Democratic Unionist Party to end its boycott of power-sharing at Stormont.

The EU insists it has put forward proposals to ease the burden of checks and points to the UK’s refusal to sign up to common veterinary rules to reduce the need for much of the bureaucracy

Last week, Mr Johnson admitted he signed up to the trade barriers created by the Northern Ireland Protocol – while saying he hoped the EU would not “apply” them.

The legislation has not yet been published, but is expected to be released within weeks – and could be voted through the Commons as early as next month.

Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, insisted there must be no climbdown, ahead of a meeting with the Irish Taoiseach on Wednesday.

Dublin must choose whether to “uphold the core principles of Belfast/Good Friday Agreement” or back a Protocol “which undermines all of this”. He added: “They can’t have both.”