The Malta Independent 19 April 2019, Friday

'Everyone will feel impact of no-deal Brexit, but 27 EU member states are prepared' - official

Albert Galea Wednesday, 20 March 2019, 19:35 Last update: about 29 days ago

The impact of a no-deal Brexit will be felt by everyone in some way shape or form, but the remaining 27 European Union member states are prepared for that eventuality, and EU official told this newsroom.

That impact can be felt in various fields, especially economically, but the greatest challenge will be in organising the logistics at borders especially in terms of customs, the official continued.

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The official said that there is a strong sense of unity in all the member states both at a government and business level and on the ground, and the official added that there has been a lot of co-ordination and consistency in planning between the countries, especially in the transport, student mobility, and fisheries sectors.  Measures to protect British citizens now residing in EU member states and to ensure that they receive the same rights as EU citizen even after Brexit have been agreed as well.

The Brexit deal that the EU will not change, the official said before adding that there is no other solution to the Irish backstop – which has been the main disputed point in the House of Commons.  This was agreed upon by both the EU and Theresa May’s government, the official said.

That backstop remains a cause for concern even now, with Ireland not willing to set up a border between them and the UK and no solution being found – that is not the backstop – just yet, the official said.  The official added that such a border would be a breach of the landmark Good Friday Agreement and noted that there was a very real possibility of unrest occurring again in the area if the agreement is not honoured.

The deal has been rejected by the House of Commons on more than one occasion in the past weeks and, with just nine days left till the UK are scheduled to leave the EU, parliamentarians have now voted in favour of going back to the EU to secure a delay until 30 June to Brexit.

However, the European Commission has advised against an extension which will go beyond 23 May and hence the upcoming European Parliament elections, as any extension beyond this date would imply that the UK would have to organise a set of elections this May; something which bears a risk of instability in more institutions.

European Council President Donald Tusk however on Wednesday evening announced in a press conference that the EU was ready to grant the delay to the UK, but only if the House of Commons approves the deal as put forward by the British Prime Minister.

Tusk said that the length of the extension was open for discussion and that while an extension to 30 June “had its merits”; there were “political and legal questions” about delaying Brexit past 23 May.

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow said earlier this week – after May’s deal was shot down for a second time, this time by a 149 majority – that he would not allow May to table the deal for a third time without there being notable changes done.  However, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told the BBC on Tuesday that the government would still try and find a way to table the deal in the Commons at some point next week.

The UK is entitled to cancel Article 50, and hence Brexit, up to 29 March – the day that they are meant to depart the Union – but they have to act and say as much if that is to occur, otherwise the country will leave the EU automatically without a deal, the EU official said.

Asked whether the UK would need a short extension to pass legislation in the House of Commons in the case of a no-deal Brexit, the official said that the EU was absolutely not considering such a notification, noting that the UK had more than enough time to prepare for a no-deal eventuality like the EU had done.

The economic impact of a no-deal Brexit on Malta is not predicted to be all that significant, with a small number of SMEs who rely solely on connections with the British market being those who will be most affected, the official said. This being said, the official described most stakeholders as being very calm about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

Asked whether Brexit had resulted in the increase of similar euro sceptic factions across Europe, the official said that Britain was in such a state in the run up to their supposed day of departure that it had done the opposite and made member states realise how precious the EU and access to the single market is.

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