Witold Waszczykowski apparently made the remark at a meeting of diplomats and officials over the summer, telling them wringing a huge Brexit bill out of the UK was the “only thing” the 27 are united on.
Poland is by far the biggest single net beneficiary of the entire club raking in around £8.5 billion ever year, and potentially has the most to lose when the British taxpayers’ cash dries up.
And Warsaw’s outburst will be seen as another a sign of how critical the issue of British cash is to the EU, despite eurocrats’ repeated claims that securing citizens’ rights is their number one priority.
Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron are currently blocking a loosening of Michel Barnier’s mandate to allow for the start of transition talks because they want to extract more promises of payment from the UK.
Separately, comments from another senior EU foreign minister also suggested that European politicians may be deliberately winding down the clock on the Brexit negotiations to put pressure on the UK.
Today European leaders were advised not to push too far with any attempt to “punish” Britain for leaving, with one eurosceptic MEP warning such a course of action could backfire on them badly.
The remarks were revealed by Henry Newman, the director of the Open Europe think tank, at an event in Brussels yesterday exploring the various trade options available to Britain after it leaves.
At one point the discussion, which was about the merits and drawbacks of the UK following either the Canadian, Norwegian or Swiss models of relationship with the EU, turned to the sluggish progress of the talks.
Mr Newman said: “When I was in Warsaw, the Polish foreign minister told me the EU27 may disagree on everything but they agree on one thing, which is that the UK should pay as much as possible for as long as possible.”
He added that during a meeting with another top EU foreign minister he had tried to get to the bottom of why there has been no “sufficient progress” in the negotiations so far.
Mr Newman relayed: “He refused to say it was any substantive point, he said we’re just not there yet. He said it’s like if you’re going on a date and you’ve had three, four, five dates. So his point was temporal rather than substantive.”
Tory MEP David Campbell-Bannerman, who was on the panel arguing in favour of a ‘Super Canada’ style free trade deal with the EU, then warned the bloc could go too far in its attempts to make an example out of the UK.
He said: “Trying to punish your biggest customer is not the best course of action because we could buy other cars, we could buy other produce. We all want a good deal and I want to help the EU get a good deal.
“We’re not out to do each other down. This decision has been made by the British people democratically and now we should all work together to get a great trade deal and remain good friends. If there’s a fall out that’s not good for Europe.”
Mr Newman also expressed concerns that European leaders have never really tried to understand why Britain voted to leave, despite the rise of eurosceptic populism in many other member states.
He said: “People’s understanding of what they voted for is not what Brussels would think. Outside London people have quite a sophisticated understanding of the nuances of the decision they took.
“One thing I’m shocked about is the lack of serious reflection here on the continent about why Britain left. I think it’s remarkable that no leading politician has given a speech about why Britain left.
“That to me is pretty staggering and there’s a sort of dismissal of the British decision as promises on the side of a bus or a mad racist decision by the British people.”