EU lead­ers ‘not bluff­ing’ over Brexit terms, warns PM Mus­cat

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

EU lead­ers are not “bluff­ing” when they say the UK will be left with­out ac­cess to the sin­gle mar­ket when it leaves the bloc if there is no free move­ment of peo­ple, Malta’s prime min­is­ter says.

Joseph Mus­cat, whose coun­try as­sumes the EU’s pres­i­dency in Jan­uary, told the BBC: “This is re­ally and truly our po­si­tion and I don’t see it chang­ing”.

Theresa May says the UK will be­gin the le­gal process to leave the EU by March.

Mr Mus­cat said talks on the de­tails of a “new re­la­tion­ship” could be de­layed.

A Down­ing Street spokesman in­sisted ne­go­ti­a­tions were be­ing ap­proached in the “spirit of good­will”.

“This is a ne­go­ti­a­tion that will take place next year and the govern­ment will set out its ne­go­ti­at­ing strat­egy in the full­ness of time,” he said.

“The aim of that ne­go­ti­a­tion is to get the best pos­si­ble deal for Bri­tain, for Bri­tish com­pa­nies to ac­cess and work with and within the sin­gle mar­ket and for Euro­pean busi­nesses to have the same ac­cess here.”

Much po­lit­i­cal de­bate has fo­cused on the pos­si­bil­ity of a “soft” Brexit - the UK re­tain­ing some form of mem­ber­ship of the sin­gle mar­ket in ex­change for con­ced­ing some con­trol over im­mi­gra­tion - and “hard Brexit” - leav­ing the sin­gle mar­ket but hav­ing fuller con­trol over mi­gra­tion.

But Mr Mus­cat said the UK and EU needed to first reach agree­ment on a range of other de­tails once Mrs May trig­gers Ar­ti­cle 50 of the Lis­bon Treaty.

He said th­ese in­cluded the bill the UK must pay be­fore leav­ing, es­tab­lish­ing what will hap­pen to the UK-Repub­lic of Ire­land bor­der and work­ing out in­terim ar­range­ments on is­sues like se­cu­rity.

Asked about a sug­ges­tion from For­eign Sec­re­tary Boris John­son that the UK could in the­ory stay in sin­gle mar­ket and place lim­its on the free­dom of move­ment of EU ci­ti­zens, Mr Mus­cat told the BBC: “It’s just not hap­pen­ing”.

“All of us have been pretty clear in our ap­proach that we want a fair deal for the UK but that kind of fair deal can’t trans­late it­self into a su­pe­rior deal,” he said.

“I know that there is ab­so­lutely no bluff­ing from the Euro­pean side, at least in the coun­cil meet­ings I have at­tended, say­ing ‘we will start in this po­si­tion and then we will soften up’.

“No, this is re­ally and truly our po­si­tion.”

He ac­knowl­edged the talks could get “com­pli­cated” and amount to a “bit of a Catch 22 it won’t be a sit­u­a­tion when one side gains and the other side loses.

“We are go­ing to lose some­thing but there will not be a sit­u­a­tion when the UK has a bet­ter deal than it has to­day”.

Mr Mus­cat also re­it­er­ated the view that even when a fi­nal or in­terim deal is struck be­tween EU lead­ers and Bri­tain, the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment may de­cide to veto it in 2019.

But the Num­ber 10 spokesman re­it­er­ated: “The timetable re­mains to trig­ger Ar­ti­cle 50 by the end of March next year.”

Mr Mus­cat’s com­ments come days af­ter the UK’s Brexit Sec­re­tary David Davis de­scribed his meet­ing with the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment’s chief ne­go­tia­tor Guy Ver­hof­s­tadt as a “good start”.

Mr Davis said their pre-ne­go­ti­a­tions dis­cus­sion had been able to cover struc­tures and how both sides pro­pose to ap­proach the Brexit talks, adding a deal was pos­si­ble that was in the in­ter­ests of the EU and the UK.

The UK govern­ment has said it does not want to re­veal its ne­go­ti­at­ing hand on Brexit be­fore the talks take place.

The BBC story at­tracted no less than 1500 com­ments by mid-after­noon, in­clud­ing some deroga­tory re­marks on Malta.

Such as: Hol­i­day is­land dic­tates the brexit terms to the fifth largest econ­omy in the World.

This why we are leav­ing.

You’re ob­vi­ously not the bright­est in­di­vid­ual - the EU is pretty much united in say­ing Bri­tain can’t dic­tate terms to the far larger EU, but we don’t let facts get in the way of fic­tion in the Mup­pet show that is UKIP do they.

Or: I would not worry too much about Malta. They do very lit­tle trade with us. Won­der what would hap­pen to their Tourist trade and econ­omy if they banned free move­ment of Bri­tish Tourist and ex­pats.

And this: At the mo­ment, it’s all pos­tur­ing and non­sense. The EU are scared, es­pe­cially lit­tle poor places like Malta. He wants free­dom of move­ment so he can send on all the peo­ple who are a bur­den to his so­ci­ety. Well we don’t want them.

Free­dom of move­ment was one of the clear things that was cam­paigned upon and why the re­main­ers say that ex­iters are racist. You can’t then keep FOM with­out trou­ble.

Not for­get­ting this: Sadly for Malta, it has very lit­tle to of­fer to the dis­cus­sion. Ger­many and France hold the ne­go­ti­at­ing cards for the EU - they know that if they ap­ply tar­iffs to UK im­ports, their wine, cheese, cars and do­mes­tic ap­pli­ances will sud­denly lose mar­ket share as we ap­ply re­cip­ro­cal tar­iffs. Per­haps Mercedes, BMW and VW will open fac­to­ries in the UK and close those in Ger­many?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.