Brexit transitional deal ‘unacceptable’

Joseph Muscat and wifeImage copyright
EPA

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Malta’s prime minister Joseph Muscat says London should probably seek a transition deal post-Brexit

Opting for a transition deal with the European Union after Brexit would be “the worst possible scenario for the EU and the UK”, a prominent Leave MP says.

Malta’s prime minister Joseph Muscat suggested that a transitional trade pact to allow sectors to adapt would mean Britain continuing to be bound by judgements from EU courts.

But Conservative Bernard Jenkin said such a deal would be “unacceptable”.

Mr Muscat’s government currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

His comments come after British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to take the UK out of the jurisdiction of the European Court.

‘Dishing out judgements’

Mrs May, who will deliver a keynote Brexit address next Tuesday, told last autumn’s Conservative Party conference: “We are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.”

But the Maltese premier made clear that any transition trade arrangements, which could last well into the 2020s, would see European institutions retain the upper hand.

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Bernard Jenkin says Malta wants to scoop some of the perceived spoils from Brexit

“An essential part of those transitional arrangements will be the governing institutions of that period,” he said, according to The Times.

“It is pretty clear to me that the institutions should be the European institutions.

“So it is not a transition period where British institutions take over, but it is a transition period where the European Court of Justice is still in charge of dishing out judgements.”

But Mr Jenkin, a director of the Vote Leave campaign and chairman of the influential Commons Public Administration Committee, dismissed the Maltese prime minister’s claims.

“An extended period of transition really is the worst possible scenario for the EU and the UK,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“Most people want to end the uncertainty and this would be a way of prolonging the uncertainty, which we don’t want.

“The choices we’re faced with, even if we leave without a deal, substantially, apart from the sort of divorce proceedings, we still get most favoured nation status under WTO [World Trade Organization] rules, which is how we trade with the rest of the world. That’s a much better position for us to be in than present membership of the EU, which costs so much and loses so much control.”

‘Absolutely paranoid’

He also poured scorn on Malta’s intervention in the Brexit debate. “What you’ve got is a Maltese prime minister who’s anxious to scoop for his tiny little island some of the spoils that he believes will fall out of Brexit,” he said.

“Most countries aren’t in the EU – they are absolutely fine. The biggest transition the EU wants is for us to continue paying into the EU budget for as long as possible.

“They are absolutely paranoid about us leaving because we take away our net contribution, which is a very substantial contribution to the EU budget.

“Of course there will be lots of things we’ll continue to co-operate with the European Union, on defence and security, and foreign policy, which are unconditional – they are not part of the negotiations.

“When you talk to business they want us to get on with this. Even most people who were in favour of remaining in the EU have accepted the decision – and they want certainty as quickly as possible.”

Mr Jenkin said it was “far easier to leave the EU because you don’t have to change anything to leave the EU – you just carry all the EU law into our own law and carry on as before”.

Mrs May, who has said she will trigger Article 50 – the formal process for leaving the European Union – by April, is under pressure to spell out the government’s negotiating stance.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says Mrs May is overseeing a “shambolic Tory Brexit”.

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