The Malta Independent 8 December 2021, Wednesday

What can Brexit mean for Malta?

Thursday, 25 February 2016, 10:16 Last update: about 7 years ago

Speaking in Parliament earlier this week, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced studies to see what could be the impact of Brexit on Malta - in other words, what could be the impacts of a British vote to exit from the EU.

Countries and businesses are fast doing their sums and we should be doing ours as well.

Let us start from the obvious: Britain is one of Malta's most important partners. The long historical ties between the two countries, exemplified by the recent visit by the Queen of England, have produced a relationship that other countries can only yearn for.

Britons account for a high percentage of the tourists we receive as shown by the many links between regional airports and Malta and Britain is the venue for many Maltese holidaying abroad.

Till now, it is advantageous for Britons to holiday here as the strong pound and the weak Euro combine to make the pound in the British pockets go further. Conversely, the Euro in Maltese pockets goes just a limited way in Britain - but that is another story.

As the stories on our backpage today tell, the pound is already taking a battering and the predictions are that with Brexit the pound will decrease further. What that could mean for our tourism industry is for the experts to say but all this means that the Brexit referendum has suddenly become an important issue for the Maltese people as a whole.

With Brexit, Malta will lose an important ally around the EU table. We do not share just a common history but also many interests. The UK was a stalwart alongside Malta in the fight against the plan to tax financial deals.

It is true that the UK has retained its pound and that Malta has joined the Eurozone and that consequently the two have ended in two different camps but Malta's campaign against the Euro rollercoaster will go on, but will be that much weaker, now that Britain is gone.

Apart from tourists, there are also other links between Malta and Britain. There are many companies owned by British owners who operate from Malta. It will have to be seen whether these will stay or whether they will cut down on their presence here, just as De La Rue has done (for reasons that have nothing to do with Brexit).

On the other hand, Brexit may also be an opportunity for Malta in the case of companies who would want to keep a foothold in the EU and can thus increase their presence here. In other words, Malta may become the home (in Europe) away from home for such companies.

This is even more the case with financial services. One big issue concerning Brexit is the position of the City which supporters of Brexit argue would be at risk in a Britain still inside the EU. Again, there are many who argue that with Brexit there may be more British fund managers who may be attracted to Malta as this would still be in the EU.

One issue with which the Maltese will find it easy to sympathise with the UK regards migrants. The Maltese today find it hard to empathise with the British as they did over the past generations, even when the British were the colonial overlords. Today's Britain is not the Britain the Maltese have come to know.

At the same time, there are many thousands of Maltese living in the UK and, while they are perfectly assimilated, if the welfare state provisions are somehow reduced and the Maltese along with the other migrants are hit, it is to be expected that such an issue will reverberate here.

From here to June, therefore, the Maltese will follow the referendum campaign with attention. It is right that the government and businesses as well as people draw up their plans in the eventuality of a Brexit. 
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