Polish official urges Tesco boycott in migrant row with UK

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks to local firefighters, during a visit following the recent storms and flooding, in Yalding, southern England December 27, 2013. REUTERS/Ben Stansall/Pool

WARSAW (Reuters) - A senior official in Poland's governing coalition urged Poles on Wednesday to retaliate for British Prime Minister David Cameron's remarks about Polish migrants pocketing British welfare payments - by boycotting Tesco stores.

The British retailer, which employs 30,000 people in Poland and sells merchandise supplied by 1,500 Polish companies, sought to distance itself from a diplomatic spat that has already drawn in Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, saying that it dealt in "retail, not politics".

That has not prevented it being targeted by Jan Bury, head of the parliamentary faction of the Polish Peasants Party (PSL), who was quoted by state news agency PAP as calling Cameron's policies "unfriendly and scandalous towards Poland and Poles".

"As Poles, we can also say 'no' to Prime Minister Cameron and his policies," Bury, a former deputy treasury minister, said. "We call on Poles to boycott British retailer Tesco."

PSL is the junior partner in Tusk's governing coalition.

Cameron has said he wants new EU rules to limit access for migrants to their host countries' welfare payments and pointed to Poles, among the biggest migrant communities in Britain, as an example of the potential abuse of rules.


Ahead of 2015 elections, Conservative Party leader Cameron is under pressure to address voter concerns about immigration, an issue that flared up again this month after restrictions expired on Romanians and Bulgarians working in Britain.

Public unease about the inflow of migrants looks set to help the anti-EU UKIP party eat into the Conservative vote in this year's European parliament elections.

His spokesman later said it was "perfectly fair" for Cameron to mention Poles since they had moved to Britain in larger numbers than nationals from other new EU member states when they joined the bloc in 2004.

Tusk said on Tuesday it was unacceptable to deny benefits to any EU citizen on the grounds of nationality.

Poland's European Affairs Minister Piotr Serafin said on Wednesday Cameron had assured Tusk in a telephone conversation that he did not intend to "stigmatise" Poles. Serafin added that Tusk was willing to discuss how to curb welfare benefits abuse.

Downing Street said both Cameron and Tusk had agreed to "hold further bilateral discussions on how the UK and Poland can work together to better manage the impact of intra-EU migration on social security systems".

($1 = 3.0697 Polish zlotys)

(Reporting by Adrian Krajewski; Editing by Christian Lowe and Gareth Jones)

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