Daniel Kawczynski MP, who was recently appointed as David Cameron’s Special Advisor on Central and Eastern Europe and Eastern Europeans living in the UK, addressed a breakfast meeting of BPCC members at the British Polish Business Centre on 1 September. Mr Kawczynski, the only Polish-born MP, chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poland. He has served as the Conservative member of parliament for Shrewsbury, Shropshire, since the 2005 general election. He authored an in-depth report about the effectiveness of UKTI in its role in promoting UK exporters, and is involved in projects fostering UK-Polish economic and political cooperation.

After an introduction from Ian Fox and Antoni Reczek, Mr Kawczynski spoke about the Polish-British relationship. “This is a poignant time – the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Poland,” he said. Mr Kawczynski was born in Poland in 1972, and left in 1978. As a child, he’d visit Poland in the aftermath of Martial Law; “people faced extraordinary difficulties,” he observed. Mr Kawczynski spoke of his pride in his surname – he was advised to change it on becoming a parliamentary candidate, but refused, saying that his grandfather Roman has seven daughters and only one son and made his grandson promise to keep his surname. “Shropshire is a rural county, small ‘c’ conservative; one constituent even confused me with Mr Ceaucescu!”

David Cameron asked Mr Kawczynski to be his advisor on Central and Eastern Europe. “The Prime Minister understands the importance of this country in the EU,” said Mr Kawczynski. “We want to harness the talents and engage with the Polish diaspora which numbers at least 600,000. Their knowledge, expertise and contacts ought to be taken advantage of. We have learnt how advantageous it has been to harness the Indian diaspora to leverage British interests in the Indian subcontinent. Yet we’ve not effectively harnessed the extraordinarily talented resource of Poles in the UK. Doctors, architects, scientists who’ve chosen to live and work in the UK could be leveraging UK influence in Poland, interacting with the Polish government. The Embassy is doing a wonderful job, it is extremely effective. More politician-to-politician interface would be useful too. If you – as representatives of British businesses in Poland – are feeling frustrations with contacts with government, legal difficulties – please let me know and I would be delighted to raise them with our prime minister Mr Cameron,” he said.

Touching on the issue of UKIP’s rising political power, Mr Kawczynski said that what is needed is a change in the perception that that EU immigration is bad. “In fact, it has been hugely beneficial to UK. There are some 2.3m EU citizens living in the UK, while 2.3m Brits are living in the EU,”

he said. “I am actively campaigning in my constituency to stay in; I want a referendum to put EU membership issue to bed once and for all, so that the next generation can go forward without this distraction. I’m keen to renegotiate some aspects of EU membership. Mr Cameron very strongly supported Mr Tusk’s nomination. The Franco-German axis has supreme power in EU. The UK has never found the partner or partners necessary to counterbalance France and Germany, so they’ve ended up setting agenda for the EU. It is important for the UK to challenge and debate some of the strategic aspects of the EU. If Poland and the UK can come together with one or two other countries – Sweden or Hungary, for example – it will be able to counterbalance the Franco-German axis,” said Mr Kawczynski. “It is difficult for a big country not to feel queasy about being in the EU when it can’t set the agenda,” he said.

While supporting the UK’s strong engagement within Europe as an active EU member, there was line to be drawn beyond which the UK would not go. “The euro – no, never, sorry. I’m not comfortable with the euro. We have seen the economic importance of the UK’s ability to set its own fiscal policy and interest rates.” He concluded by saying: “My challenge to those of you who support the EU – who feel strongly about EU membership – don’t leave it to the politicians.”

After his speech, Mr Kawczynski gave members plenty of time to ask questions and to voice their concerns. He answered fully questions about EU membership, migration and benefits, the Ukraine situations and the need for tough sanctions against Russia, defence spending and the UK budget deficit, an energy union for the UK, as well as lobbying in Brussels.

Mr Kawczynski also spoke about the report he authored into the effectiveness of UKTI in promoting British exports around the world. “We need to make sure that UKTI is focused on big ticket issues and making the most of diplomatic high-level contacts in politics around the world. Changes have to be made – more resources should be going to organisations like this – you are the professional experts that can engage with British SMEs on an ongoing basis – lengthy and protracted support in-country is extremely important for exporters. Too many SMEs don’t understand what you are doing on this.” Mr Kawczynski took the occasion to publicly praise Martin Oxley, the head of the UKTI in Poland, and former BPCC CEO: “Mr Oxley is worth his weight in gold and you can minute that.”

Source: BPCC Contact Magazine, Issue 16, 2014