The Malta Independent 20 June 2019, Thursday

European Commission considers Malta well-prepared for no-deal Brexit – PM

Albert Galea Monday, 25 March 2019, 18:37 Last update: about 4 months ago

The European Commission considers Malta’s preparations for a no-deal Brexit scenario – which is becoming ever-more realistic – as generally very positive, even though there were some areas where improvements had been suggested, Prime Minister  Joseph Muscat said in Parliament on Monday.

Muscat was making a Ministerial Statement in Parliament, where he gave a summary of proceedings which had taken place at the most recent European Council extraordinary summit to discuss a request submitted by British Prime Minister Theresa May for a delay to Brexit, which was initially meant to happen this coming Thursday.

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Muscat said that while Malta did not agree with the decision taken by the British people, it was in everyone’s interest that the democratic decision of the British people to leave the European Union is respected and should be done in a mature, clear and certain manner.

He summarised that due to the upcoming MEP elections, the latest date for Brexit to occur would be up to 22 May as otherwise the country would have to hold a set of elections.  However, the UK must present a direction to the EU by 11 April – as this is the final cut-off date for the organisation of the MEP elections – otherwise they will leave without a deal.

“With this double deadline, the EU has given the message that it is time for decision to be taken”, Muscat said.

The Prime Minister said that the government is preparing for a no-deal scenario and noted that at European level, 17 out of the 20 legislative proposals drafted to alleviate concerns of the impact of a no-deal exit on important sectors had already been approved.  One which was still pending, Muscat said, are the visa regulations for UK citizens journeying to the EU on short, non-commercial trips, wherein the direction and intention is that the need for a visa is waived in this case.

Asked about the effect that the UK’s exit would have on the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework, Muscat said that in drafting the estimates for the coming period (2021 to 2027) the UK’s exit had already been calculated in that there will be no contribution from the country, and there will be no refunds given back to the country.

Asked about the situation with regards to Maltese patients who have to travel to the UK and students studying in the UK, Muscat said that there were bi-lateral agreements in place which the UK has promised will be activated and respected once Brexit goes through.

Opposition Leader Adrian Delia said that he was most pre-occupied not with what will happen in the UK or to the UK, but with how these events will affect Malta and the Maltese.  He said that the Prime Minister has not been clear enough about Brexit procedure to businesses who rely on the UK for their bread and butter.

These businesses, he said, still do not know of the consequences of a no-deal Brexit and this is because the government is not prepared enough to handle this situation.

Delia also questioned what Malta is doing to prepare for the loss of one of the country’s biggest allies in the fight against tax harmonisation at a European level.

The Opposition leader also dedicated part of his response to discussing the words of a provisional draft of a Moneyval report, which found that Malta’s ability to prevent money launder is unsatisfactory. 

“It is a negative report which condemns our country’s institutions and our government’s ability to fight money laundering; the government has failed in overseeing the money laundering problem in the country”, Delia said.

Muscat responded to this by taking a swipe at the Opposition leader, saying that when he heard Delia speaking of money laundering he thought that he was going to bring up another point entirely – a reference which points towards accusations where Delia’s name is mentioned in tandem with an investigation into offshore companies which were found to be involved in a prostitution racket in London.

Muscat sad that this was a process and that they would be addressing all points to make sure that a positive conclusion was reached,  before referring to a 50 point action plan on the financial services sector that the government had released as an example of the work that it is doing.

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