“Britain is leaving the European Union but is not leaving Europe…Our policy is still European. We want the European Union and its members to remain our natural allies. We will defend our shared interests and face up to future challenges together.” So said the UK’s Minister of State for Trade Policy, the Rt Hon Greg Hands, at the UK-Poland Business Trade and Investment (BTI) Forum, held in Warsaw at the end of May.
The forum was the first of its kind, the result of a UK-Polish intergovernmental consultation which took place in December of last year, when the prime ministers of both countries agreed that such an event was needed.
The forum was organised by the British Embassy Warsaw and the Polish Ministry of Enterprise and Technology, as a platform for Polish and British companies to establish contacts with potential partners, clients and investors, as well as an opportunity to hear experts and analysts discussing the latest trends and challenges in bilateral economic relations.
“Poles have already established over 60,000 companies in the UK, which is our third largest trade partner” said Poland’s Minister of Entrepreneurship and Technology Jadwiga Emilewicz at the opening of the forum.
“British exports of goods and services to Poland reached 5.9 billion GBP in 2016, while the value of Polish exports of goods and services to Great Britain increased to 11.5 billion GBP,” added Mr Hands, who noted that after Germany, Poland is the largest industrial exporter to Great Britain.
“It is a testament to the strength of the Polish economy and our bilateral relations, that more and more Polish companies are beginning to invest in other large European economies, including Great Britain,” explained Mr Hands.
In an interview with the Polish news agency PAP, Ms Emilewicz said: “the UK’s industrial strategy and our strategy for responsible development are very similar . We want to deepen these areas in the fields of digitalisation and industry 4.0.” She added that “we are connected by so many things in the history of the 20th century that it would be awful if we did not use these connections in our economic development.”
“The British business environment is friendly in terms of taxes and regulations. And also the vision of the Polish government assumes being a competitive global exporter,” added Mr Hands.
Ms Emilewicz also addressed the fact that trade between the two nations is of vital importance and has changed drastically since 2005.
“British exports to Poland increased two fold, while, to the surprise of the British, exports from Poland to the United Kingdom increased three fold,” Ms Emilewicz pointed out.
Mr Hands added that “my message for them (following meetings with Polish ministers) was that Brexit is important from the Polish perspective because Poland is in a unique situation (on the EU’s scale) where it has its own important interests in every element of this process: the EU’s budget; citizens’ rights; the future trade relationship or cooperation in the area of defence and security.”
On the subject of Brexit and the ongoing trade negotiations with the EU, Ms Emilewicz said: “we want this relationship to remain as close as possible; we want customs, trade, free movement of people, goods and services to remain at the highest possible level.”
According to Statistics Poland (GUS), Polish exports to the UK amounted to 55.4 billion zloty, (an increase of about 2 billion zloty year-on-year) in 2017, while imports totalled 20.6 billion zloty, (an increase of about 300 million year-on-year).
“Our plan for 2018 is to increase cooperation in the field of business exchanges and start-ups,” concluded Mr Hands.