PM’s po­lit­i­cal in­ter­view to

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Over the week­end, the mag­a­zine Politico which fo­cuses on news about the EU, car­ried an in­ter­view with Malta’s prime min­is­ter.

One can find the com­plete text of the in­ter­view on the web­site http://www.politico.eu/ar­ti­cle/mal­tapm-joseph-mus­cat-brexit-talks-will-be-like-the-greek­bailout/ or a summary on our web­site http://www.independent.com.mt/ar­ti­cles/2016-1003/lo­cal-news/Brexit-talks-will-be-like-the-Greek­bailout-PM-Mus­cat-says-in-Politico-in­ter­view6736164622

The ar­ti­cle’s ti­tle and its ini­tial state­ment jux­ta­poses Bri­tain with Greece. That may have been the jour­nal­ist’s choice but it gives, right from the be­gin­ning, a wrong im­pres­sion. Bri­tain is not Greece and the prob­lems with the EU are in no way com­pa­ra­ble.

What the jour­nal­ist prob­a­bly un­der­stood from the prime min­is­ter’s words was that the EU will play hard­ball in its com­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with the UK over Brexit. In the in­ter­view Dr Mus­cat ap­pears to re­flect what is be­ing said in the Euro­pean Coun­cil.

In tak­ing upon him­self to re­flect the opin­ions of his fel­low lead­ers in the Coun­cil, the prime min­is­ter is risk­ing tak­ing upon him­self a role that is not his (there is Don­ald Tusk for this) and for

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which he was never del­e­gated.

Maybe he was right in what he said, but he gained no cred­its for him­self nor for Malta by do­ing so. By an­nounc­ing the EU will be play­ing hard­ball, he must have over­looked the pos­si­bil­ity that pro-UK coun­tries are send­ing a dif­fer­ent mes­sage to Lon­don. Nor does he seem to have con­sid­ered the pos­si­bil­ity of the EU send­ing a more tem­per­ate mes­sage in case the Bri­tish are ready to seek an ac­com­mo­da­tion with re­gards to im­mi­gra­tion con­trol and free­dom of move­ment.

Af­ter all, that is what the ne­go­ti­a­tions are all about – as there would be no ne­go­ti­a­tions oth­er­wise. It is al­ways a bet­ter pol­icy to speak less be­fore the ne­go­ti­a­tions be­gin and to let the talk be re­served for the ne­go­ti­a­tions them­selves.

Oth­er­wise, what the in­ter­view says later on is more or less what any well-read Euro­pean would say. The point how­ever is that Dr Mus­cat was be­ing por­trayed all the time as chair­ing the ro­tat­ing pres­i­dency at the time when the UK trig­gers Ar­ti­cle 50 and thus, by im­pli­ca­tion, he is por­trayed as some­how hav­ing a larger role. But as Dr Mus­cat hur­ried to point out on Mon­day, Malta will not be lead­ing the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions.

It would seem from this that Dr Mus­cat and

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