The Malta Independent 12 November 2019, Tuesday

Updated: Brexit withdrawal agreement will protect citizens’ rights, debts to be paid – PM

Jeremy Micallef Wednesday, 23 October 2019, 13:37 Last update: about 19 days ago

The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between the European Union and the United Kingdom remained intact and nothing was changed with regards to citizens’ rights, debts to be paid, and the transition period, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in Parliament today.

Making a ministerial statement following the EU summit held last week to discuss Brexit, Muscat said that the only changes made were in areas that touched on Ireland, more specifically on the customs arrangements, the role of the Irish Parliamentary Assembly in the aforementioned arrangements, and the value-added tax in Ireland.

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Last week, EU leaders agreed on a Brexit deal with the UK, which is still to be ratified by the UK Parliament.

The Prime Minister explained that the UK’s position was that Northern Ireland was to remain a part of their territory when it came to customs and other commercial agreements in the future, whilst the EU wanted to protect the integrity of the Single Market and the peace in Ireland as established in the Good Friday Agreement.

The ultimate solution agreed upon by Prime Minister Johnson and the EU was that an invisible barrier between Great Britain and Ireland would be placed in the sea, with all custom controls and regulations of the EU applying – with an exception being made only with regards to products that don’t carry any risk or are to be consumed in the UK.

On the role of the Northern Irish Parliamentary Assembly, a vote to be held after four years following the end of the transition period was agreed upon, with the vote being whether Northern Island would want to continue applying the arrangement agreed upon.

The agreement could be extended for a period of four to eight years depending on how large the majority would be.

If, on the other hand, the reverse happens then the Protocol would apply for the next two years and along this period an alternative solution would be found – if this solution is not found then a border will be created between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

On taxes, all the rules of the EU would apply and the UK will continue collecting taxes as if it is still a member state. An exception on certain products will be included if an agreement is reached.

The transition period will start when the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified, and nothing will change until the end of 2020, and there is a possibility that this is extended until the end of 2022.

Effectively, the only changes that will take place are that the UK will no longer participate in meetings and institutions of the EU.

On future relations, references to customs union were removed although provisions were kept regarding level playing fields that guarantee just competition between the EU and the UK.

Whilst this agreement took place between the leaders in the Council of Europe, a vote took place in the English Parliament in favour of the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement. They also decided in a debate on Saturday to ask for an extension until the 31st of October.

After this development, Prime Minister Johnson said that he was going to stop the legislative process of the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, speak with the leaders of the EU and intensify preparations for a No-Deal.

This because he does not wish to lengthen the process and because he believes that the UK should leave on at the end of October with or without a deal.

An extension would have to be agreed upon by all 27 member states, and President of the Council of Europe Donald Tusk is recommending that the extension request is accepted and discussions are ongoing to see what kind of extension is to be given and until when.

In practice, this development means that the possibility of a No-Deal Brexit next week cannot be excluded at this stage.

PN approves of Brexit deal

Speaking in Parliament, Opposition Leader Adrian Delia said that the Nationalist Party also approves of the Brexit deal.

He noted, with satisfaction, that the Republic of Ireland found support from the EU along the last three years of discussions – “Malta, as the smallest country in the Union, must recognize this fact and appreciate it.”

“We respect the decision to leave made by the British and we continue to respect them as we respect the two decisions taken yesterday by the British Parliament.”

Delia insisted that diplomatic pressure must be maintained at European level to ensure that the rights of Maltese and European citizens, as well as those of the British in Malta, are safeguarded – including businesses of said nature.

We expect an orderly exit, the PN Leader said, and that the UK must be given an extension as to not allow them to exit the EU without a deal.

“The fact remains that the last three years have been difficult for those Maltese living in the UK, as well as Maltese businesses that import and export from the UK, and that is why it is necessary that this chapter is closed once and for all in an amicable way as to return to stability.

 

“That is why I remind the British leaders and politicians that their indecision is leaving a sizeable impact on citizens and businesses.”

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