December 21, 2017 / 3:35 PM / 10 months ago

'Madame Brexit' tells Poland - Your constitution is your own matter

WARSAW (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May gave Poland a rare dose of big power support on Thursday by saying that its constitution was its own affair, a sharply different tone to that of the European Union which has scolded Warsaw over judicial reforms.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May attends a meeting with Polish and British soldiers and veterans at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister in Warsaw, Poland December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

The EU executive launched an unprecedented action against Poland on Wednesday, calling on other EU member states to prepare to sanction Warsaw if it fails to reverse judicial reforms that Brussels says pose a threat to democracy.

When asked about the Commission’s move to deploy the “nuclear option” under Article 7 of the 2009 Lisbon treaty, May said: “These constitutional issues are normally, and should be primarily a matter for the individual country concerned.”

Speaking alongside Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw, May said: “Across Europe we have collective belief in the rule of law.”

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech during her and Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki meeting with Polish and British soldiers and veterans at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister in Warsaw, Poland December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

“I welcome the fact that Prime Minister Morawiecki has indicated that he will be speaking with the European Commission and I hope that that will lead to a satisfactory resolution.”

While the EU executive has censured Polish ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s push to have control of judicial appointments, May is seeking to court Poland as an ally in Brexit negotiations and key military partner against Russia.

Poland has said reforms are necessary while like-minded allies in Hungary have indicated they will veto the ultimate sanction of suspending Poland’s voting rights in the bloc.

At one point, a translator’s slip made Morawiecki appear to cast May as “Madame Brexit”, though in fact he said in Polish: “as Madame PM said, Brexit is Brexit”.

Slideshow (8 Images)

BREXIT AND RUSSIA

May said Britain and Poland had signed a defence and security cooperation treaty which deepens cooperation on training, information sharing and capability development.

On the eve of a visit by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to Moscow, May said Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin was trying to weaponise information and undermine a rules-based international system.

“We are both deeply concerned by Russia’s attempts to weaponise information,” she told reporters. “The Kremlin is seeking to undermine the international rules-based system and it will not succeed.”

Morawiecki said he hoped France and Germany were aiming to work out the best solution with Britain as it leaves the EU

“I have deep hopes and conviction that our French and German partners aim to work out the best solution in this new, not easy situation that we are in with respect to Brexit,” Morawiecki said.

Additional reporting by William James in London; editing by Guy Faulconbridge

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