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Less than half of Poles support referendum on EU membership

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Warsaw, Poland – Less than half of the Polish population is in favour of holding another referendum on the country’s EU membership, but the country appears strongly divided on the question.

Minority of Poles in favour of EU membership referendum

The poll, conducted by SW Research last week, found that around 43% of respondents backed such a referendum. A slightly lower share of respondents (37%) was categorically against such a move, while one in five Poles were undecided.

Asked about how they would vote, an important majority (64%) would choose to remain in the bloc, confirming previous international studies that highlighted the Polish population’s strong support for the EU.

Respectively 15% and 14% of respondents said they would vote to leave or still didn’t know. A remaining 7% declared they would not take part in the referendum.

In 2003, 78% of Poles voted in favour of EU membership, which became effective the following year in the bloc’s “enlargement to the East”.

Why are we talking about “Polexit”?

Talks about a possible “Polexit”, or Poland’s exit from the EU, have intensified in recent weeks, largely fueled by the long-standing legal battle between Warsaw and Brussels.

In a highly anticipated landmark ruling on October 7, the Polish Constitutional Tribunal ruled that domestic laws, including the Polish Constitution, had supremacy over EU law in areas where they clash.

The ruling, repeatedly postponed, followed a motion by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki after the EU’s Court of Justice said that the government’s new regulations for the appointment of Supreme Court judges stood in violation of EU law.

The EU Commission immediately issued a strong-worded response, saying “EU law has primacy over national law, including constitutional provisions”, and “all rulings by the European Court of Justice are binding on all member states’ authorities, including national courts.”

EU law vs. national law

Following a backlash across EU capitals, Polish government spokesman Piotr Mueller insisted the ruling did not apply to areas, such as competition and trade, where the EU had exclusive competence, and only had an effect on shared competences (such as security and justice).

He also pointed to previous rulings by the French and German top courts, among others, reaffirming the primacy of national law in some areas.

Despite the current debate, it appears unlikely Poland will leave the bloc anytime soon. As the most recent survey shows, a large majority of the population is in favour of remaining in the EU, and the government has no real interest in actively pursuing an exit strategy in a similar way as the UK.

Observers nevertheless caution that the Polish government’s course of action, and the questioning of the primacy of European law over domestic legislation, could lead to a de-facto legal Polexit “through the back door”, undermining one of the pillars of the EU’s legal and institutional order to which all member states signed up to when they joined the EU.