Maltese ties with UK will not be severed despite Brexit, says PM

At a MEUSAC core meeting in Valletta this morning, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that following a worst case scenario post-Brexit, Malta would want to become the most British-friendly nation within the European Union

Joseph Muscat at the MEUSAC core meeting on post-brexit scenarios
Joseph Muscat at the MEUSAC core meeting on post-brexit scenarios

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat will not speculate on the changes of a Brexit deal passing through the UK’s House of Commons, but reassured Malta will not be severing its ties in the event of a Brexit vote.

“The government is ready to give direction and offer all consular aid to people who are anxious about their status, whether they are British citizens in Malta or whether they are Maltese citizens in the UK,” Muscat told the Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee (MEUSAC) in Valletta.

British MPs have two weeks to study the UK deal for its withdrawal from the European Union, and vote on whether to accept the conditions for its exit.

Muscat congratulated MEUSAC for the way it had carried out its public consultations, saying all EU members were unanimous on the Brexit deal and that there would be no retractions or changes to the agreement. “There is no doubt that the current agreement is the best possible agreement between Britain and the European Union. With this deal, all the rights of Maltese citizens in the UK and vice-versa are protected… I will not speculate, but in the case that this agreement fails to go through, Malta, together with the European Commission, will not abandon these European citizens.”

Muscat said that whether or not the Brexit deal goes through, EU states still face two important issues on their agenda: the next seven-year EU budget and the governance of the Eurozone.

“The multi-annual financial framework will operate for the next seven years but will now have to consider that one major contributor will be missing. Malta is in a situation where the economy is growing consistently and the Maltese standard of living is inching towards an EU average.”

Muscat said that statistical anomalies also influence this average: when countries like Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia entered the EU, Malta became automatically richer. This was because Malta’s GDP was higher than the one in these countries but no tangible increase in wealth was experienced by Malta. “The same thing will happen here. Once Britain leaves the EU, and Britain is a very rich contributor, Malta’s status of wealth will increase once again, but this will be a statistical trick,” Muscat said.

Muscat said Malta was in favour of several proposals on the regulation of the single European currency, but said France and Germany differ greatly on their views on how the Eurozone should be governed.

While France’s Emanuel Macron has stressed the need for greater financial solidarity between the 19 countries sharing the euro, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel insists that competitiveness should not be undermined and that individual states must remain liable for their own economic risks.

Commenting on where his sympathies lied, Muscat said he’d rather be the prime minister of a rich country that does not need EU funding than the leader of a poorer one dependant on EU funds, hinting at the way countries in turmoil like Greece had suffered under the weight of Troika measures in return for bailouts, often under conditions laid out by Germany.