The Malta Independent 22 July 2019, Monday

Muscat confirms that he was initially against October deadline for Brexit

Monday, 15 April 2019, 18:30 Last update: about 4 months ago

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on Monday confirmed that he was initially against the 31 October deadline offered to the United Kingdom for Brexit, but said that he was convinced by the terms tied to this extension.

Updating the House on Brexit proceedings on Monday, Muscat answered to a question by PN MP and MEP candidate David Stellini to confirm whether he was initially against the Brexit deadline that was eventually agreed upon.  This was after the French newspaper Le Monde reported that Muscat, along with four other EU leaders, had preferred an extension which stopped on 21 June.

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Muscat confirmed this report in Parliament, saying that if the United Kingdom only wanted until June as an extension, he saw no real reason as to why more should be offered.  He said that he wanted to be convinced by the rationale behind a longer extension and noted that he was indeed convinced by the extension not being open-ended and by the fact that the date agreed means that Britain will have left by the time a vote is to be taken on the European Union’s Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF), on which Britain has a veto.

He said that he could never favour a date of departure which could have left the EU exposed to being blackmailed by the UK who could have threatened to freeze the MFF – which runs for seven years – in an attempt to get a better deal of departure.

The Prime Minister also said that he had also been convinced by the attitude of British Prime Minister Theresa May, who Muscat described as being very reliable in keeping her political word.

Le Monde reported that Muscat was initially in favour of a 21 June deadline for Brexit.  He was joined in this line of thought by French President Emmanuel Macron, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel.

In the end, a compromise was found, with the EU establishing 31 October as the new deadline, after the first one to be established, 29 March, came and went without the UK Parliament being able to agree on Britain's way out.

The compromise given to Britain to approve a Brexit withdrawal agreement will require the country to hold elections for the European Parliament on May 23 - provided the withdrawal agreement hasn't been passed by lawmakers by that date.  If the elections are not held, then the UK will automatically leave the EU on June 1.

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