Europe Geopolitics – December 28, 2021

| December 28th, 2021

In today’s newsletter we cover Boris Johnson from multiple angles. While he isn’t doing well in the polls right now, his career is far from ruined as the United Kingdom is doing a stellar job dealing with the new surge in COVID cases. We also take another look at Russia’s motives to put pressure on Nato as well as the never-ending fight between Poland and the EU, which could get much worse next year.  

1.  UNITED KINGDOM

1.1 Will Boris Johnson survive 2022? Here are the issues that could make or break the Prime Minister – The Telegraph

As the Prime Minister reaches the halfway point of a parliamentary term with an 80-strong majority, senior Tories had expected to begin showing the public tangible returns on his flagship promises to “level up”, cut taxes and take control of Britain’s borders.

Mr Johnson also stood to benefit from the reflected glory of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, the third ever Commonwealth Games to take place in England and, arguably, the country’s best hope at a World Cup since 1966.

Instead, to use the terminology of Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, Conservative MPs will return to Parliament after the Christmas period with talk of potential “regicide” on their lips.

The threat to Mr Johnson was crystallised by the Commons mutiny over his Plan B of Covid-19 restrictions earlier this month. Those voting against the Government ranged from serial rebels to moderate former ministers and new MPs.

One lesson for No10 was that many of the 2019 intake of MPs, including the dozens of MPs who broke through Labour’s Red Wall, had “gone rogue”, having “not been given either discipline or love”, a government source said.

In truth, a sizeable number of newer MPs see little value in blindly toeing the party line when they believe that the precariousness of the Prime Minister’s position leaves him unable to offer them long-term prospects.

One sword of Damocles hanging over Mr Johnson’s head is the inquiry into parties held at No10 allegedly in breach of Covid-19 rules. But a former government aide warned that the biggest threat to Mr Johnson lay in a looming investigation by Kathryn Stone, the Commons Standards Commissioner, into the funding of the renovations to the Prime Minister’s flat above No11 Downing Street.

Earlier this month, Mr Johnson was accused of misleading Lord Geidt, his standards adviser, after an Electoral Commission investigation found he had asked a Tory donor to pay thousands of pounds to fund the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat. Mr Johnson’s advisers now fear that Ms Stone could open her own inquiry.

[…] At a time when Mr Johnson knows he must show that he is delivering on his pledge to “level up”, many of the poorest households feeling even more financial strain than they did before the 2019 election is a deeply damaging prospect for the Prime Minister.

James Frayne, the pollster and founding partner of Public First, an influential policy research agency, said the NICs increase and an expected rise in the energy price cap “could hit working class voters so hard they might never forgive”. He added: “Politics could soon be dominated by living standards – a bad place for any incumbent government.”

At the same time, Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary, warns in The Telegraph that the Government will pay a “heavy price” if the NICs rise is not seen by the public to be spent wisely on the NHS.

[…] Mr Gove’s responsibility for the levelling up agenda places a colossal amount of responsibility on the man who famously ditched Mr Johnson during the 2016 leadership contest to launch his own bid. The Prime Minister has also urged the Levelling Up Secretary to find an urgent solution to the post-Grenfell fire safety crisis that has trapped many leaseholders in their homes.

Another urgent issue on Mr Johnson’s desk is the post-Brexit negotiations over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which became an even bigger headache for the Prime Minister when Lord Frost resigned from the Cabinet.

Mr Johnson believes the talks must be resolved by the end of February, ahead of the run-up to the Northern Ireland Assembly election. Ministers believe that there is a realistic prospect of the poll resulting in a Sinn Fein first minister, which could herald a new era of frostiness between Stormont Castle and Downing Street.

[…] Labour has opened up an eight-point lead over the Tories in the wake of “party-gate”, according to a poll of 25,000 people commissioned by The Sunday Times.

One former Cabinet minister said of the Prime Minister: “He wants to look at everything but he’s not a deliverer so he doesn’t grip it. He looks exhausted.”

A government source said: “There will have to be a change in behaviour in the New Year. . There will need to be a different approach with Parliament. And we need to restore trust with the public.”

Comment (The Times): Looking at the polls, there is obviously a case to be made. Both the prime minister and the government are extremely unpopular. This process did not start with “partygate”, or even the Owen Paterson affair: the slide began in May, although the downturn has accelerated as the stories of lockdown-busting cheese-and-wine evenings have piled up. With every politician, there comes a point when the voters simply won’t listen any more. The PM may not be at that point yet. But he is certainly close to the threshold.

That said, there are several powerful counter-arguments. The first is that, as I pointed out last week, governments are ultimately judged on longer-term factors, such as the economy, not short-term scandals. Indeed, with the virus raging and the public raging about the virus, you might expect the Labour majority to be even greater.

It is also surprisingly normal for governments to be unpopular. Following his initial honeymoon, David Cameron had only one month as prime minister in which he had a positive approval rating — and the government he led never even managed that. Voters now tell pollsters that they view Johnson as indecisive, incompetent and untrustworthy. But they have said the same for long stretches of his tenure. And just as Cameron was blessed by going up against Ed Miliband, so Johnson benefits from being pitted against Sir Keir Starmer and a Labour Party that voters still do not consider remotely ready for government.

The bookies may now be betting against Johnson fighting the next election. But the problem for any would-be assassins is that it is very hard for a ruling party to actually get rid of a prime minister. John Major and Gordon Brown survived the killers’ knives. Theresa May succumbed, but only after long and agonising months. And then, there was a clear diagnosis within the party of how her government had failed.

[…] The challenges facing Johnson are certainly severe. The pandemic. The cost of living crisis, and in particular rising energy prices. The continuing swirl of sleaze and scandal. The need to govern, in effect, in coalition with his own MPs. Surveying his prospects, he may feel as if the ship of state is more barnacle than boat.

Yet while the prime minister has been divorced, and frequently almost beheaded, he has somehow always survived. Boris may be bruised and battered. But he still wears the crown.

1.2 Boris Johnson’s rejection of lockdown could pay big dividends in 2022 – The Telegraph

[…] JP Morgan’s case is fairly simple. The omicron surge has been concentrated amongst the young: and, as we know, risk lies with the over-60s. But an extraordinary 93 per cent of them have already been boosted, giving high protection from either catching omicron or getting seriously sick from it – the highest figure of any major country. This time last year, lockdown was used as a tool to buy time to vaccinate the at-risk age groups. Now, we enter the omicron wave with that work largely done.

Britain is also leading the world on two other fronts. The first is the new national sport of nostril swabbing: we’re getting through millions of lateral flow tests each day, with another 700 million on the way. This is more per capita than any country on Earth. It is expensive, but it is helping us to achieve what the goal has always supposedly been: living with Covid. Between vaccines and testing, we’re staving off lockdowns. The sick are quickly isolating, while the healthy go about their lives with more confidence.

Then come the antivirals, the wonder-drugs from Pfizer and Merck shown to stop serious illness in its tracks. The success rate is astonishing: molnupiravir cuts the risk of Covid hospitalisation or death by 30 per cent and paxlovid by 90 per cent for those whose underlying conditions make them vulnerable. There are about 1.3 million such people in Britain and they are each being sent a PCR test kit in case they get ill. If they test positive, antivirals are delivered to them quickly in the hope of keeping them safe and out of hospital. Britain has placed one of the world’s biggest orders for these antivirals. Again, expensive – but cheaper than a national lockdown.

All of these Covid defences – vaccines, tests, drugs, immunity levels – are incomparable to what we had this time last year. Which is why it’s odd that the conversation still lingers on lockdowns. The advice from Sage to ministers, sent around last week, suggests its thinking has hardly moved on from the early days, as if we had not invented any better ways of living with a pandemic than to lock everyone up.

There are several countries that do feel they have no other option. The Netherlands is back in an emergency lockdown; Germany and Italy may follow suit. The new prime minister in Sweden (where booster coverage is half of that in Britain) is calling time on her country’s famously relaxed, voluntary regime. Swedes now have Covid-status cards and, for the first time, compulsory face masks. Elsewhere in Europe, we see fines for the unvaccinated, ever-tighter use of vaccine passports – and, alongside them, intensifying protests and deep social unrest. It’s a fate Britain may yet avoid.

Omicron could still prove just as dangerous as suggested by those Sage “scenarios” of up to 6,000 deaths a day. But a happier scenario is also coming into view, and real-world evidence is backing it up – that Britain gets through this with minimal deaths and no more restrictions, thanks to the most successful booster programme in Europe. This is why the PM is waiting an extra week: he’d like to see if his jabs work. Covid has been full of surprises. This could be one of them.

Comment: This article offers a very interesting take on Boris. Yes, he is in trouble, but no, it is far from over as the first article on the matter in this newsletter shows as well. While a lot of credit needs to be given to the Tory backbenchers who refused to vote for “Plan B”, there is no denying that the United Kingdom is handling the pandemic better than other countries. The big majority of the vulnerable population has received booster shots (most prior to the new surge in cases), the country is focusing on drugs that prevent severe cases before patients have to go to the hospital, and its AstraZeneca vaccine has proven to be efficient.

Meanwhile, France announced stricter measures and an official vaccine passport that will be required for travel, leisure, and related.

If Johnson avoids new measures, he will allow the UK to report outperforming economic growth compared to countries that do lock down and he can win back the support from many voters who felt that he betrayed them.

And, on a different note, handling the pandemic well will prove to be a big win for a post-Brexit United Kingdom, which did avoid the surge in deaths that other countries recently saw. 

1.3 France threatens Britain with customs levies in fishing row – The Telegraph

The EU could impose customs duties on British goods if the government fails to give French fishermen a further 73 licences to operate in UK waters, a French minister has said.

Clément Beaune, the French Europe minister, made the threat in a television interview. It is the latest chapter in the battle over fishing licences after Brexit.

In the interview Beaune issued a warning to Liz Truss, the British foreign secretary, who has taken over the Brexit portfolio after Lord Frost’s resignation, that her predecessor’s strategy, “which consists of seeking the division of Europeans”, had never worked.

“[The British] have tried in recent months,” Beaune told France 2, the state TV channel. “We reacted and we obtained a lot of licences through this firmness.”

However, the European Commission, which has formal responsibility for taking action against Britain in disputes over the Brexit withdrawal deal, appeared less gung-ho than Beaune, saying only that it would study the French request for litigation.

Two weeks ago Virginijus Sinkevicius, the Lithuanian EU commissioner in charge of fishing, seemed to imply that the row had been settled when he hailed the award by Britain of 80 additional licences to French fishermen as a “very important step”.

France said the move meant its fishermen had received 93 per cent of the licences they had requested to continue working in British waters after Brexit. However, President Macron’s government insists that 73 fishermen are still without licences and it is pushing the EU to take legal action over them.

Comment (The Telegraph): A new trade agreement does not usually presage 12 months of unprecedented conflict between the two parties involved. But the UK-EU deal, agreed a year ago on Christmas Eve, is no normal trade deal.

Most free trade agreements with the EU take about seven years to complete, but the deal with the UK was struck in just eight months and under the pressure of the pandemic. It should have brought a “reset” after years of gruelling Brexit negotiations. Instead, the bare bones deal was the high water mark of UK-EU diplomacy over the last 12 months. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) is unique because it increased barriers to trade rather than eliminating them. That became clear in January when UK seafood exporters found they could no longer trade mussels with the EU.

Trust had already been damaged by the UK’s threat to break international law with the Internal Market Bill, and by what Brussels felt was Lord Frost’s confrontational negotiating style. But as talks culminated in detailed negotiations over fish stocks last December, few would have predicted that just five months later the Royal Navy would be shadowing French ships near Jersey in a row over fishing licences. Traditionally, free trade agreements are a moment for celebration, but Brussels was in no mood to celebrate a deal they saw as damage control.

Brexit was a lose-lose even if the trade agreement was vastly preferable to the economically damaging no-deal both sides had worked to the last minute to avoid. But the TCA was an opportunity to draw a line under Brexit and begin a new relationship with Britain.

[…] There is also Emmanuel Macron, who faces elections in April, to consider. He may find it hard to resist the temptation to bash the Brits, especially as relations are in a sorry state after the row over fishing licences and the Aukus submarine pact. A meeting is already planned in Brussels when Paris, which is set to take on the rotating presidency of the EU in January, will ask the commission to begin legal action against the UK over post-Brexit fishing licences. Macron has warned he will take his own national measures if the commission does not play ball. With protocol talks with Brussels set to continue and France spoiling for a fish fight, the next six months look set to bring more discord than détente.

2.  GERMANY

2.1 Baerbock stresses “geostrategic role” of Nord Stream 2 – Welt

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has confirmed that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is more than a purely private project for her. “The last few years have made it clear, also in view of the different perceptions in Europe, what geostrategic role Nord Stream 2 plays,” said the Green politician in an interview with the Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

This is why the old federal government of the CDU/CSU and SPD had already acknowledged that this pipeline also raises security issues.

The two controversial gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea between Russia and Germany are ready, but the operating licence is still missing. Shortly after taking office, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) described the approval process as “completely non-political” and in the same breath classified the pipeline as a “private-sector project”.

Baerbock does not see any difference with Scholz with regard to the approval process: “At the current stage, the legal examination lies with the Federal Network Agency. Olaf Scholz and I have described this state of affairs in different words.”

However, the Foreign Minister also referred to an agreement between the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the U.S. on Nord Stream 2. “After all, the old German government together with the U.S. government already made it clear that energy must not be used as a weapon and that this would have considerable consequences. And that applies just as much.”

Comment: People who expected that the Greens could change anything given their negative views on Nord Stream 2 will be disappointed. While the Greens continue to make the case that Nord Stream 2 is not just a private economic project, they are either unwilling or unable to change the course in the coalition consisting of SPD, Greens, and the liberal FDP. Shortly after making her remarks, she insists that she and Chancellor Scholz are on the same page.

This means that – everything else excluded – Nord Stream 2 now depends on the decision of the Federal Network Agency, which could approve the pipeline in the second half of next year. 

Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador to Germany, Sergei Nethayev, is calling for a speedy decision on the start of the gas pipeline. “I don’t think anyone needs an artificial delay in the commissioning of the pipeline,” he said in an interview with the Deutsche Presse-Agentur. Russia is ready to deliver gas to Germany through the two pipes under the Baltic Sea immediately, he said. He expects the new federal government consisting of the SPD, the Greens and the FDP to deal with the project “pragmatically and for the benefit of consumers”.

Commenting on the Greens’ negative attitude towards the project, the ambassador said: “I hear from the new federal government the assessment that it is a private-sector project that should not be linked to politics.”

All things considered; the Russians know that they have a big supporter in Olaf Scholz who will refrain from using Nord Stream 2 as a political tool (sanctions) as long as possible. The Russians also know that the Greens have little to no power when it comes to forcing their views on the SPD. Needless to say, Germany will continue to be a useless power in Europe when it comes to dealing with Russia. If anything, it’s a liability as it prevents countries from forming an alliance based on a common goal with shared views on geopolitical issues.

3.  FRANCE

3.1 Are these the last days of the Marine Le Pen political dynasty? – The Times

[…] France’s far-right leader for the past decade was also speaking of her own need for a political rebirth. Less than four months from what had looked like a promising duel with President Macron for the Élysée, Le Pen is fighting for her political survival. Her new reality was signalled in ugly fashion earlier on Christmas Eve when she found insults scrawled on the wall of her home in Celle Saint Cloud, near Versailles, and a call to vote for Éric Zemmour.

It is too early to write off Le Pen, 53, as she works to rekindle her third campaign for the presidency. Yet the candidacy of Zemmour, an anti-Islam polemicist, has stolen her fire and opened the way for a possible breakthrough by Valérie Pécresse, the candidate unexpectedly chosen this month by the conservative Republicans party. Le Pen is running neck and neck with Pécresse, leader of the Paris region council, or just behind her with Zemmour in fourth place, the polls show. Macron is still favoured to win the April 24 run-off, whether against Pécresse or Le Pen, except in one poll that gave Pécresse the edge.

Failure by Le Pen to reach the final two in the April 10 first round of the presidential election would probably end her time as champion of the nationalist right and the dynasty founded 50 years ago by Jean-Marie Le Pen, her father, under the name National Front.

The youngest of Le Pen’s three daughters is sticking to her guns, offering her brand of protective populist leadership and refusing to lurch into the full-on toxic territory occupied by Zemmour. She is not short of conflicting advice from the family firm. The 93-year-old patriarch, whom she expelled from the party in 2015 before changing its name to National Rally, believes his daughter has gone soft. Her campaign needs a “dose of virility” to re-invigorate it against Zemmour, Jean-Marie Le Pen said. He would not hesitate to vote for Zemmour if he “appears better placed in the national camp”, he added.

Marion Maréchal, 32, Marine’s niece who has her own following among the Catholic wing of the far right, has also shown support for Zemmour, saying the time will come when “the question has to be asked about who is better placed to win”. Maréchal, the daughter of Marine’s sister Yann, 58, and a former Rally MP, has left the party to launch a right-wing political sciences school in Lyon.

Marine’s older sister, Marie-Caroline, 61, who manages her campaign travels, is still on board, however. “Marine has all the qualities needed to be head of state,” Marie-Caroline said recently. “She is a hard worker, intelligent and calm.” Philippe Olivier, Marie-Caroline’s husband, is Marine’s chief strategist. He is in no doubt that she can win by ignoring Zemmour’s provocations.

Comment: French election news is slow during the holidays. This warrants a closer look at an icon of the French right, Le Pen. In the polls, she has a chance of overtaking Pécresse and being overtaken by Zemmour. It’s a tight race and it basically comes down to the candidate who can bring together both the right and the left against Macron in the second round of next year’s election.

Dr Jean-Yves Camus, an academic expert on the far right, said it was impossible to forecast Le Pen’s fate. “There is a certain lassitude in the National Rally electorate. The Le Pen name seems synonymous with failure in presidential elections,” he told Challenges. Zemmour, however, had yet to show that he had anything to offer beyond “a reactionary discourse on French decline with xenophobic overtones”.

4.  RUSSIA

4.1 Putin renews threats to the West – Frankfurter Allgemeine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened the West with unspecified steps if its proposals for binding security guarantees are rejected. In the event of a failure of the negotiations, the answer would depend “on the proposals that our military experts will submit to me”, Putin said on state television on Sunday. In view of the tensions, Nato is planning talks with Moscow. The Nato-Russia Council could meet in January for the first time in two and a half years. Moscow is still considering whether to participate.

Putin, however, once again signalled his willingness to resolve the new tensions in the Ukraine conflict diplomatically. Talks with the USA are scheduled for January. In a draft agreement already published, Moscow demands an end to Nato’s eastward expansion, which it sees as a threat. Russia also wants to ensure that Ukraine does not become a Nato member. The Western military alliance has always rejected this demand.

[…] For the time being, the signs are pointing to dialogue. A NATO official said in Brussels that Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had decided to convene a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council format on 12 January. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the format and timing had yet to be clarified. “But we are open to dialogue.”

Comment: Not a lot has changed since last week. Putin continues to threaten Nato, but he remains open for constructive talks. Based on this, the following Spectator article explains Putin’s recent actions as it is based on defence instead of offense:

“When Vladimir Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union ‘a major geopolitical disaster of the century’ he wasn’t channelling his inner Marxist-Leninist. Russia’s leader is not interested in remaking the Soviet empire, which finally fell apart 30 years ago today, on Boxing Day 1991. But he does want to roll back the losses of the post-Cold War era, expand Russia’s sphere of influence, and build a buffer zone around the homeland. It’s this that explains Russian aggression on the borders of Ukraine. While western observers might like to paint this as mindless sabre-rattling, the reality is that this massing of troops is driven by fear – and the memories of past encroachments onto Russian soil.

[…] Russian thinking is dominated by its geography and history. It has been invaded via the flat land to its west by Sweden, Poland, the Lithuanian Empire, the French, and the Germans (twice). The Russians don’t want to defend along a 1,000-mile-long flat frontier, their reflex is to try to push up to the 300-mile gap between the Baltic Sea and the Carpathians and plug it. Unfortunately that space is better known by another name: Poland.

The Russians also want, at the least, a pro-Moscow government in Ukraine to guarantee Nato troops will not be on the border with short supply lines. So when Ukraine flipped, Putin engineered the uprising in the Donbass region (creating a mini buffer zone) and annexed Crimea.

Moscow’s 2008 military intervention in Georgia is also linked to the fear of Nato advancing ever closer. The former Warsaw Pact members Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Albania, GDR (East Germany) and the Czech Republic/Slovakia are all now in Nato. It is also why Russia keep 2,000 troops in the Moldavian breakaway republic of Transnistria.

[…] Russia does not have many friends. The overstated friendly relationship between Turkey’s president Erdogan and Putin is not a ‘bromance’ but more ‘frenemies’. As for the Iranians, they have long memories: Russia annexed territory it controlled and then, in the guise of the Soviets, occupied Iran itself.

[…] As for China, Beijing now successfully competes for influence in the region thus blocking Moscow’s attempts to roll back the losses of the end of the Cold War. Eastern Europe though is the flashpoint; Russia views encroachment on its borders as an existential matter. This stance will not change. In the event of renewed major conflict in Ukraine, Russia would probably seek to increase the buffer zone, linking the Donbas down to the Crimea and cutting Ukraine off from the Sea of Azov. If Belarus looked as if it might follow Ukraine out of the Russian orbit it is probable Russian troops would cross the border and end up on the Polish frontier.

Neither scenario may come to pass, but if either did, the root cause would not be mindless Russian aggression – it’s fear. Nato is not a threat, but in the Russian mind centuries of violent history will not be erased by decades without war.”

4.2 Russia warns of danger of armed conflict with Nato – Handelsblatt

In view of the tensions between Russia and Nato, the Defence Ministry in Moscow has warned Western military attaches of the risk of armed conflict. “Recently, the alliance has moved to a practice of direct provocations that pose a high risk of escalating into an armed confrontation,” Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin told diplomats in Moscow on Monday.

The ministry circulated a video showing Fomin briefing the foreign uniforms on Russia’s criticism of Nato. According to the video, representatives of 14 Nato countries were among the 105 people present.

Fomin accused Nato of a massive increase in military activities. In 2020 alone, the number of military flights on Russia’s borders had risen from 436 to 710. Every year, Nato also holds 30 large manoeuvres with combat scenarios against Russia.

Fomin recalled Russia’s demands on Nato for security guarantees and an end to eastward expansion. Once again, he warned against a possible Nato accession of Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin had recently threatened with consequences if Nato were to advance further into Russia’s vicinity.

Comment: Putin knows that so long as he occupies Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine and Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, the countries have no chance of making it into NATO writes Andrew A. Michta for 1945. The fact that he wants this in writing is just a way to humiliate the West. 

Moreover, he makes the case that Europe needs to stand up for itself. Failure to respond to Russian threats will give Putin the power to try more. He could focus on other countries in the east as well to establish a stronger military presence.

“We are fast approaching a point where a crisis in Eastern Europe, especially the fate of Ukraine, could decide Europe’s security, and by extension, its political future.  What European governments do going forward will either reaffirm the interests and values of Western democracies or will become our greatest defeat since the end of the Cold War. It is a binary choice that cannot be wished away or obfuscated by compromise. If the West shows that it has a spine when it comes to first principles and national interests, the outcome of the Ukrainian crisis will be a watershed, ending Putin’s neo-imperial drive and offering hope not only in Kiev but also in Minsk, for any lasting solution to the security dilemmas in Eastern Europe must be regional. It will also give Russia itself a chance to abandon the path of empire and become a “normal” state, with influence commensurate with its power. However, if European leaders fail once more to acknowledge reality and stand up to it, in the coming decade the Continent will find itself in an ever-more precarious security situation.”   

5.  POLAND

5.1 Poland accuses Germany of trying to turn EU into ‘Fourth Reich’ – The Telegraph

Germany has been accused of trying to turn the European Union into a federal “German Fourth Reich” by the head of Poland’s ruling party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Speaking to the far-right Polish daily GPC, the leader of Law and Justice (PiS) said that some countries “are not enthusiastic at the prospect of a German Fourth Reich being built on the basis of the EU”.

“If we Poles agreed with this kind of modern-day submission we would be degraded in different ways,” said Mr Kaczynski, who is also a deputy prime minister, on Friday.

He added that the EU’s Court of Justice was being used as an “instrument” for federalist ideas.

Poland has been involved in a lengthy stand-off with the European Union, particularly over the judicial reforms that PiS has pushed through since 2015.

In the latest twist, the EU this week said it was launching legal action against Poland for ignoring EU law and undermining judicial independence, which could lead to Warsaw facing huge fines in the European Court of Justice.

A ruling in October by the Polish Constitutional Tribunal challenged the primacy of EU law and threw Poland’s future in the European Union into doubt, with critics branding it a step towards a “legal Polexit”. EU membership remains supported by most Poles.

On Wednesday, Brussels said it had “serious concerns with respect to the Polish Constitutional Tribunal and its recent case law” and  questioned its independence.

Poland has accused the EU of “bureaucratic centralism”.

During German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s visit to Warsaw earlier this month, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the current German government’s support for EU federalism was “utopian and therefore dangerous”.

Comment: It’s not ground breaking news, but it highlights a major flaw in the federal EU project. Some countries are simply not willing to give that much power to the EU. In this case, there are a number of problems. Germany, the EU’s largest economy is now looking to give the EU more power after the socialist SPD, the Greens, and the liberal FDP took office. This isn’t sitting right with Poland, which is having some issues with Chancellor Scholz anyway after he implied that Germany’s participation in EU funds is a way to repair WWII damages in Poland. On top of that, the ECJ is now officially superior to any constitutional court in the EU, which Romania already rejected according to The Brussels Times. What this article essentially shows is that the Poland vs. EU/ECJ fight is far from over. The EU needs to be careful, its rapid expansion already caused Brexit. As Brexit is working out well for the British, it cannot risk losing more countries.