Brexit conditions first, talks about EU-UK relations later: PM Muscat
Prime Minister says he favours a two-speed Europe
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said this evening he favoured a two-tiered form of Brexit negotiation, with talks about conditions under which the United Kingdom would leave the EU coming first and discussions about future EU-UK relations following later.
Dr Muscat was answering questions by Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil in parliament, following an official ministerial statement.
He said that there must be a very clear sequencing. While the UK side seemed to prefer a holistic discussion, this might not lead to quick results, the Prime Minister said.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced earlier today that the government planned to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on March 29. Once triggered, the UK will have two years to negotiate an exit from the EU. The European Commission negotiating team will be led by Michel Barnier.
Dr Muscat told parliament that in his recent meeting with Mrs May in London, he emphasised that no new agreement would be better for the UK than that currently in place with Britain as a full member of the union.
One of key issues is the €50 billion bill the UK must settle to leave the EU. Dr Muscat said there must be an agreement between the two sides as to what should be calculated through a clear balance sheet including assets, liabilities and commitments.
Once an agreement on methodology was reach, a sum could be agreed upon, he said.
On the future of Europe, Dr Muscat said that the White Paper presented by the European Commission offered five scenarios for the Union’s future. He said he favoured an EU working at two different speeds. The union was already in this situation, with the Schengen agreement and single currency, Dr Muscat said, but east European member states feared that a two-speed Europe was a ploy to prevent them from advancing.
Dr Muscat qualified his support for a two-speed Europe by saying that this should be on an elective, not selective basis.
He said he had managed to lead the Socialist group within the EU to vote Donald Tusk into a second term as president of the EU council, even if they pointed out that all important posts were occupied by members of the EPP – a situation also referred to by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. This situation would be discussed to find a proper balance in future.
Discussing Turkey, the Prime Minister called on both sides to ease off their criticism of each other, adding that he felt the attitude of certain Turkish statements made this weekend was misplaced.