UK/EU deal: ‘No rush to implement but Malta should analyse implications’ - Sant

Labour MEP Alfred Sant says there is no rush to implement EU/UK deal, calls on governemnt to analyse implications of agreement

Labour MEP Alfred Sant
Labour MEP Alfred Sant

Labour MEP Alfred Sant has called on the government to analyse the implications of the deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union, warning that the rights of Maltese working in the UK may be influenced as a result of the UK’s arrangement to stop paying migrants’ in-work benefits.

The deal between the European Union and the United Kingdom, which according to British prime minister David Cameron will give the country ‘special status’, the UK may apply an emergency on migrants’ in-working benefits for four years when there are “exceptional” levels of migration. The UK will be able to operate the brake for seven years.

Hailing the deal, Cameron said there will be tough new restrictions on access to the country’s welfare system for EU migrants – a measure ostensibly aimed at deterring EU migrants from going to the UK.

But even though the deal between the European Council and the UK may have been welcomed by many, Alfred Sant has insisted that there is no need to rush.

The former prime minister also warned that several MEPs could contest the arrangement by which the UK will be exempt from paying full social benefits to migrants coming from EU countries.

“MEPs may argue that this measure will contradict the principle of free movement within the European Union. There is also the principle that member states shall treat fellow EU citizens in the same way they treat their own citizens,” Sant told Labour supporters in Tarxien.

“If the UK is going to limit the benefits that Maltese workers can aspire to receive under the laws of the UK, why shouldn’t the same priniple apply to British students studying at the University of Malta?” Sant asked.

Pointing out that British students studying at the University of Malta do not have to pay any tuition fees – as opposed to Maltese students studying in the UK – the former prime minister questioned why British students would be able to benefit in full from the Maltese educational system, whereas Maltese students would not be able to benefit in full from British social security systems.

Under the agreement between the UK and the EU, child benefit for the children of EU migrants living overseas will now be paid at a rate based on the cost of living in their home country, while the amending of EU treaties to state explicitly that references to the requirement to seek ever-closer union “do not apply to the United Kingdom” meaning Britain “can never be forced into political integration.”

The deal has been welcomed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and is also Cameron’s best bet at wooing the British voters to vote in favour of the UK retaining its EU  membership during the forthcoming referendum on June 23.

No country has ever voted to leave the Union and many leaders said they felt they were at an historic turning point for European integration.

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