Opposition Leader Adrian Delia said in Parliament today, that the Opposition agrees that Malta should work towards having a strong relationship with the United Kingdom following Brexit, for a number of reasons including the volume of business that there is between the two countries, and the historical ties.
Following a Ministerial statement by the Prime Minister, who repeated what he told the press earlier in the day with regards to Malta’s plans should there be a no-deal Brexit, Delia highlighted that the Opposition agrees with the withdrawal agreement which had been drawn up.
Delia highlighted that Malta does not have any control over the situation occurring in the UK, but said that Malta should be prepared for every situation, including the remote possibility that anoter referendum in the UK could be called.
Delia welcomed that 10-year residency permits will be given to UK citizens in Malta.
He proceeded to ask a number of questions to the Prime Minister. He said that unfortunately there were some major companies based in England who operate in the maritime sector who went elsewhere, highlighting one which went to Cyprus. He said that the maritime sector is extremely important for Malta, and queried whether this sector is being safeguarded in the negotiations.
He also asked, among other things, if government identified the companies which had long term-plans being affected by the uncertainty of Brexit, and what Malta is doing to address those concerns.
A number of other MPs proceeded to ask a number of questions, including whether the preferential treatment proposed to be given to UK citizens in the Malta airport would be reciprocated in the UK, and whether English will remain the official language of the EU. one gives preferential period to uk citizens when coming the Malta, that we do this only if Maltese have same treatment in UK. Will English remain official language in the EU. Other questions regarded UK university prices for Maltese students and whether a bilateral agreement would be sought.
The MPs who asked questions on the topic were Robert Cutajar, Kristy Debono, Edward Zammit Lewis Simon Busuttil, Robert Arrigo, Hermann Schiavone
In response to the many questions posed, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that in a no-deal situation, one positive thing to emerge was that there has been more business interest in Malta than ever before, and companies who thought there might be an agreement are not thinking of possible locations to operate from within the EU.
He stressed that all that he has said is a contingency plan in case of a no-deal Brexit.
Turning to the 10-year-residnecy for UK citizens currently in Malta, he said that the initial feedback on this proposal was good, and will have a positive effect for companies who employ British citizens.
As for communicating with Maltese citizens with the UK, he said it is hard to know the number of Maltese citizens there due to the EU’s freedom of movement. One of the things government is doing, even through the helpline which will be introduced, will be to urge Maltese in the UK to register with the Maltese High Commission within the EU. This will help government understand the situation of the Maltese citizens currently there.
He said in a no-deal two things will occur. Firstly, there will not be refunds that the EU used to give to the UK, and secondly that a contributor will leave. The impact will be that Malta would need to pay €6 million more per year for two years in terms of contributions to the EU.
In terms of dedicated lanes at the airport for UK citizens, something which Malta is considering introducing, he said Portugal is also of the same mind for UK citizens. He said that the UK could be thinking about introducing such a mechanism for Commonwealth countries. He highlighted that such a lane is important for Malta given the percentage of UK tourism.
He said that the EU already confirmed that English will remain the official language in the EU.
He said that if the UK were to ask for an extension regarding Brexit to get its house in order, Malta would say yes. He said that this would not be to reopen negotiations however. He stressed that there is a red-line, the end of May, according to EU lawmakers, otherwise the EU would be obliged to host EU elections.
On tax harmonisation, he said there is a strong small num of states against it. “What have to do more than we did before as the countries who were against were relaxed letting the UK fight the fight.”
As for the potential introduction of visas, he said that it is something being handled at EU level, and if they need to be introduced it would most likely take an electronic form, and would be more of a formality.
Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne answered some questions in relation to healthcare, which the Prime Minister had spoken about earlier in the day.
Original article found on The Malta Independent