Busuttil on Brexit: ‘EU paid the price and must learn its lessons’

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil says it is in Malta's best interest to remain part of the European Union, but acknowledges that UK vote exposed EU's shortcomings and discontent

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union meant that Brussels paid a heavy price for its shortcomings, but Malta must not follow the same path as it is in the country’s best interests to remain part of the EU, Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said today.

Speaking on Radio 101, the PN leader said the UK’s “disappointing and shocking” decision to leave the European Union was due to populist politics, and that it is imperative that Malta addresses any discontent immediately to avoid having voters influenced by “irresponsible politicians.”

“The result of the UK referendum is down to populist politics. British people are shocked and now, after voting to leave the European Union, are searching on the European Union. Malta must not follow the same path; it must not resort to any conclusions that harm the national interest,” he said.

Slamming UK Prime Minister David Cameron after having promised Britain a referendum vote in the run-up to the UK’s general election of May 2015, Busuttil said Cameron - who on Friday announced his resignation following the disappointing result – had put his political interests above those of the country, and such decision came back to haunt him.

Insisting that it is in Malta’s best interests for it to remain part of a “united and strong” Europe, Busuttil insisted that citizens must not be left in the dark over what is going on in Europe, and that any discontent must be addressed.

He acknowledged that Britain’s decision was a repudiation of Brussels, and that lessons must be learned to avoid a similar fate. 

Busuttil pulled no punches in denouncing the European Union’s approach on migration, arguing that it was one of the major fronts in which the EU failed, and which consequently, has led to the people’s discontent.

“Migration is a classic example of how Europe failed. The Maltese are worried about migration; there was a wave of refugees and asylum-seekers coming into a European Union with open borders … No wonder people voted for populist politics,” Busuttil said while insisting that xenophobia is never the answer.

The Opposition leader also sought to quash any suggestions by Eurosceptics that Malta should follow Britain in leaving the European Union as he argued that in spite of the EU’s shortcomings, the Maltese citizens themselves can testify to the benefits of the country’s EU membership.

“Around 75% of Maltese are in favour of Malta remaining part of the European Union. It is the PN’s and Malta’s best interest to remain part of a strong and united Europe,” Busuttil said while reiterating his party’s hand of cooperation to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

Welcoming the prime minister’s position of any future talks of ‘Mexit’ – a Malta exit – the Opposition leader said it was refreshing for the prime minister to realise that leaving the European Union would be “suicide.”

“The prime minister was part of the Labour Party which opposed Malta’s EU membership and he is now saying that if we leave the European Union, it would be suicide. If it is suicide to leave the EU then it would have been suicide not to join it,” Busuttil quipped.

Busuttil slams government for signing Gozo hospital away for 99 years

The Nationalist Party leader also slammed the government’s “lies” after it was revealed that Vitals Global Healthcare can unilaterally extend the emphytetuical grant of the Gozo General Hospital by an additional 69 years. Busuttil’s remarks come in the wake of a report by the Sunday Times of Malta which reported how contrary to the government’s declarations, the Gozo hospital was not being privatised for just 30 years, but for 99 years.

Busuttil said the government had lies when it said the contract would be for 30 years, and that the Opposition will not let the issue go away.

Noting that the contract between the Maltese government and Vitals Global Healthcare was signed by then health minister Konrad Mizzi in March after Mizzi’s name in the Panama Papers revelations emerged, Busuttil said the country’s national interests were betrayed and that the police should investigate all contracts involving Mizzi.

Alfred Mifsud should resign from Deputy Central Bank Governor immediately - Busuttil

Turning his attention on Deputy Central Bank Governor Alfred Mifsud, the Opposition leader insisted that Mifsud should also resign from his current role in the wake of the bribery allegations. He explained that it was not enough that Mifsud withdrew his nomination of Central Bank governor, arguing that if he is not fit to be governor, then he should also resign from his current role.

“If Alfred Mifsud is not enough to be governor, then he is not good enough to be deputy governor either. This is harming the country’s reputation and the Central Bank. It would have been unacceptable for the European Central Bank to accept Alfred Mifsud as its member given the current cloud of bribery allegations,” he said.

Calling on the prime minister and the Central Bank to investigate the allegations made against Mifsud, the Opposition leader said the government stops at nothing to defend people within its inner circle.

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