UK Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the attacks on Polish communities following the Brexit vote on 23rd June, and sought to reassure all Poles who currently live in Britain that they are welcome.
In June, Britons voted to leave the European Union. Much of the Leave campaign focused on immigration, which some say fired up xenophobia and gave extremist groups a sham excuse to attack people. Following the Brexit vote, reports of attacks against Poles increased considerably.
The Polish embassy in London said it was deeply concerned about incidents of xenophobic abuse directed against Poles in the days following the referendum.
Prime Minister Theresa May also met with Prime Minister Robert Fico of Slovakia in Bratislava. In a press statement, she said: “It’s 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.” (Image: gov.uk/government/speeches)
After meeting with Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo in Warsaw, Mrs. May said:
“I want to be clear that Poles living in the UK continue to be welcome, we value the contribution they make to our country.”
“We condemn 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 was in Poland and Slovakia on Thursday, the latest visits of her post-referendum tour of European Union leaders.
There are nearly 800,000 Poles living in the UK, according to official figures.
A few days after the referendum, leaders of the UK’s main faith communities united in condemning intolerance amid growing reports of xenophobic and racist abuse.
Theresa May with Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo. (Image: i.iplsc.com)
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, senior Imams and the chief Rabbi all spoke out against the division and expressions of hatred.
In the four days following the Brexit vote, police recorded a 57% increase in hate crime against foreigners.
Leader of the Church of England (Archbishop of Canterbury), Justin Welby, said:
“The privilege of democracy is to vote, to campaign vigorously, to have robust and firm discussion. It is not a privilege of democracy to express hatred, to use division as an excuse for prejudice and for hate-filled attacks.”
“Somehow people who were already of evil will – and I’m not blaming the leave campaign, I want to be quite clear about that – but people who were of evil will are using this as an excuse, a mere sham, for their hatred to be expressed.”
Make a success of Brexit
The British Prime Minister says she aims to ‘make a success of Brexit’ and will seek to address the concerns of Britons regarding free movement, while working for a close economic relationship with the European Union.
— Polish PM Office (@PremierRP_en) July 28, 2016
Mrs. May said:
“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.”
Mrs. May says she does not want Brexit to weaken Britain’s relationship with Poland. The two countries will hold bilateral summits, with the first one to be held in the UK.
Slovak PM Robert Fico welcomes PM Theresa May on arrival at the office of government. pic.twitter.com/e1sf47UwSW
— UK in Slovakia (@UKinSlovakia) July 28, 2016
The British Prime Minister added:
“I fully expect and intend to be able to guarantee the rights of Polish citizens when we leave the European Union but, as I said earlier, it’s important of course that we see the rights of British citizens who are living in other member states in the European Union also being respected.”
Video – Theresa May in Poland