EU facing 'extremely difficult' legal row as top Poland court kicks out Brussels laws

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Hundreds of thousands are expected to flood towns and cities around Poland this weekend in support of the EU. It comes as Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s Law and Justice party continues to pressure the EU and its involvement in the country’s legal system. Last week, Poland’s highest court ruled that parts of EU treaties are “incompatible” with its constitution.

It challenged a key tenet of European integration, in what has been a sharp dispute between Brussels and Warsaw.

Crucially, the ruling took a major step towards a “legal Polexit”, with far-reaching consequences for the country’s funding and future relations with the bloc.

Last weekend, people marched on around 100 towns and cities across Poland to protest the government’s actions.

In Warsaw, the capital, some 100,000 people gathered.

Mr Morawiecki has defended the decision taken by his ruling party.

But despite warning EU institutions not to “act beyond the scope of their competencies” by interfering with Poland’s judiciary, he appears to have since made a desperate U-turn.

For the past week, writing on Facebook, Mr Morawiecki has decried the Polexit suggestions as “fake news” and a “harmful myth”.

A day after the widespread protests, and in the first message of its kind, Mr Morawiecki wrote: “Polexit is fake news.

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“This is a harmful myth, which the opposition replaces its lack of idea for the appropriate position of Poland in Europe.”

All this week Mr Morawiecki has posted similar messages to his Facebook page.

Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal effectively rejected the principle of the primacy of EU law over national legislation in certain judicial matters.

The challenge was brought about by Mr Morawiecki in March this year, and marked the first time in the history of the bloc that a leader of a member state had questioned wholesale EU treaties in a constitutional court.

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On Monday, Thierry Breton, the European Commission’s industry chief, said he did not believe “for one second” there would be a Polexit after the court ruling.

He said the Commission, which draws up the proposals for new EU laws, would analyse the ruling before deciding what action to take.

It has previously warned it will use all its powers to bring Poland into line with EU law.

Opinion polls consistently show strong support for EU membership among Polish voters.

That support was on display last weekend when opposition politicians, activists and artists took part in the protests.

They will likely reappear this weekend to hammer home their message: that Poland belongs in the EU.

At a rally in Warsaw, Donald Tusk, the former President of the European Council and now leader of the opposition party Civic Platform, called on people to “defend a European Poland”.

Wanda Traczyk-Stawska, a 94-year-old veteran of the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazi German occupation in 1944, also spoke at an event.

She said: “This is our Europe and nobody is going to take us out of it.”

The BBC spoke to protestor Janusz Kuczynski who said he was worried the country was going backwards, explaining: “I am afraid that bad times may come back.

“There was simply no freedom.”

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