PM tells UK: You can’t have your cake and eat it
The European leader who will head the EU when Brexit talks are set to start, yesterday warned Britain “can’t have the cake and eat it”.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, also stressed the UK would be offered an “inferior” deal to full EU membership.
His comments will be seen as a swipe at Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson who famously said: “My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it.”
Malta takes over the rotating presidency of the EU at the start of 2017, when the UK is expected to trigger Article 50 to launch the two-year process of quitting the union.
After meeting Theresa May at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, he argued that Britain is “between a rock and a hard place”.
“Most of my colleagues want a fair deal for both the UK and Europe, but it has to be a deal that is inferior to membership, so you can’t have the cake and eat it,” he told Sky News.
He also heaped pressure on the British Prime Minister to be clearer about the deal that the UK government is seeking.
“Can you tell me if the UK government wants access to the single market? Because I don’t know,” he explained.
Dr Muscat also stressed that the EU Council, of national leaders, would “mandate” the European Commission to negotiate a deal with the UK.
Experts believe the Commission is likely to seek to strike a tougher bargain to preserve the EU ideals.
Meanwhile, leading economists yesterday halved their growth forecasts for the UK next year to just one per cent, below that of the eurozone at 1.4 per cent.
But the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development also nudged up its prediction for Britain for this year, by 0.1 to 1.8 per cent, given that the economy has been more robust than feared after the Brexit vote.
Hopes that the UK will be able to reach a good deal with the EU rose after European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker signalled that an agreement could be made with Switzerland for access to the single market, in conjunction with a policy which would allow jobs to be offered first to local residents.
However, Morgan Stanley’s president warned that the City will be hit by Brexit.
Colm Kelleher said some firms will pull their headquarters out of the UK unless “passporting” arrangements, which allow firms based in one EU nation to operate across the bloc, are retained.
Warning that “uncertainty” was leading to a slowdown in investment, he told BBC radio: “The City of London will suffer as a result of Brexit, the issue is how much.”
Latest figures show that 5,500 UK-registered companies rely on “passporting” to do business in other EU states.
Mr Kelleher’s concerns were echoed by Rob Kapito, president of global investment corporation BlackRock, who said: “I don’t think there is any good firm that has not already started to look at real estate in different areas outside of the UK in case they have to move larger operations.”
He believes the “unintended consequences” of Brexit are “very significant and they impact everyone across the UK”.