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There is a significant Polish Community in the UK. The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics state that in 2015 an estimated 831,000 residents of the UK were born in Poland, and an estimated 916,000 residents in the UK have Polish nationality.[1]

A 2013 analysis of the 2011 census conducted by the ONS reported that Polish was the second most spoken language in England after English, with 546,000 people (1% of the population) describing it as their main language.[2]

As well as Polish nationals who have come to the UK since Poland joined the EU in 2004, there already existed a significant Polish community who came to the UK around the period of the Second World War. The 1951 UK census showed the number of Polish-born immigrants had quadrupled since before the war, to more than 160,000.[3]

Relations between Poland and the United Kingdom are strong. In July 2016 The Prime Minister Theresa May travelled to Poland to meet the Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło. They agreed to press on with the commitment made by the then Prime Minister David Cameron in December 2015, to hold annual bilateral summits between the two countries. Theresa May also commented that “co-operation on security and defence is one of the most important areas of our growing strategic relationship.”

In December 2016 the inaugural UK-Poland intergovernmental consultations were held in London; it was the first time the two governments had held a ‘structured, comprehensive dialogue at Cabinet level.’ They agreed a series of collaborative measures in defence, foreign policy, security, the economy and business, science and innovation. Examples included:

  • the bilateral deployment of around 150 UK armed service personnel to Poland within enhanced Forward Presence
  • agreement to sign a defence cooperation treaty
  • strengthening of UK/Polish industry cooperation
  • coordinating opportunities to support the growth of UK and Polish small businesses
  • a showcase of UK-Polish research collaboration and increased academic exchange
  • ongoing cooperation to tackle global challenges including energy security, counter terrorism and cyber crime

They also agreed alongside these steps to:

  1. Broaden and deepen our country-to-country dialogue through establishing an annual British-Polish Civil Society Forum in 2017. This will bring together a wide range of non-governmental actors, including UK and Polish businesses, academia, and think-tanks, as well as well as the vibrant Polish community in the UK. [4]

Relations between the two governments are further cemented by the fact that the Polish President and Prime Minister’s Law and Justice party (PiS) sits as part of the same party group – the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR)- as the British Conservative party in the European Parliament.

As a sign of the growing relationship between the two countries, on 3 July 2017 it was announced that their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will undertake an official tour to Poland and Germany between the 17th  and 21st  July.

Defence issues

Poland hosted the NATO summit in 2016 at which the Alliance agreed to deploy multinational battalions in Poland and the three Baltic States. The US is contributing 150 troops from Light Dragoons to the US-led battlegroup in Orzysz, Poland (the UK is separately leading the battlegroup in Estonia). This Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP) is designed to act both as a deterrent to Russia and to reassure those states of NATO’s commitment to collective defence. The Light Dragoons, with Jackal and Coyote light reconnaissance vehicles, will be based in Poland for at least six months, when they will be replaced by another unit. The UK has also committed 1,000 personnel to NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force when it is led by Poland in 2020 (the UK is leading the VJTF in 2017). In addition, NATO has established a Multinational Corps Northeast Headquarters in Szczecin which is on permanent stand-by to take the lead in land combat operations across north-eastern Europe if needed. The US is currently building a land-based missile defence installation (the Aegis ashore missile defence system) in Poland which should come online in 2018. Poland will continue to spend 2% of GDP to defence in 2018.

[1]     ‘Population of the UK by Country of Birth and Nationality: 2015’, ONS, 25 August 2016

[2]     ‘Language in England and Wales: 2011’, ONS, 4 March 2013

[3]     ‘How Britain and Poland came to be intertwined’, BBC News, 1 September 2014

[4]     ‘UK-Poland intergovernmental consultations: Joint Communiqué’, Foreign Office, 2 December 2016.

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