Breakfast Meeting Recap | Edward Zammit Lewis

Even if we manage to reach an agreement that is acceptable for both sides of the negotiating table, there’s still no guarantee or certainty regarding the processes that will follow

 EU Affairs Minister Edward Zammit Lewis
EU Affairs Minister Edward Zammit Lewis

It’s been 1202 days since the vote in the United Kingdom on EU membership.

And in 21 days, the United Kingdom is set to leave the European Union.  

The days in between have been eventful to say the least.

We’ve seen two Prime Ministers resign in the United Kingdom, an early general election and spent countless hours following debates in various fora on Brexit.

Debates on the way the United Kingom should leave the Union, the Agreement or lack thereof and even on whether it should leave the Union.
It’s no secret that if it was up to us, the UK would remain part of the EU.

On this, I personally couldn’t agree more with the President of the European Council: Brexit is a lose-lose situation and all we can do is minimise the effects of it.

However, despite more than 3 years of ongoing negotiations, we are none the wiser and still have no clarity on whether the UK will leave the EU with or without a deal.

In this regard, we would prefer if an agreement were to be reached that ensures an orderly withdrawal. We want this outcome not only because we want to protect our citizens and minimise the impact on our business, but because we still consider the UK to be one of our closest friends and ally. One with whom we are determined to strengthen cooperation in areas of mutual interest.  

Yet we know that the days to come will be intense and that time is not our side.

Complex technical issues related to the border on the island of Ireland need to be resolved.And even if we manage to reach an agreement that is acceptable for both sides of the negotiating table, there’s still no guarantee or certainty regarding the processes that will follow.
Regretfully, we are still encountering major uncertainty.

Now I need not tell you - that uncertainty is not desirable, especially for businesses.

It affects business confidence that in turn may have detrimental effects on our economies.

Then there are people.

People who have exercised their rights of free movement and are living in the UK, or from the UK living in the EU. They too are feeling anxious and nervous – although for reasons that may be different to businesses.

This is where we as politicians need to come in.

It’s our duty to provide certainty where there is none.

It’s our job to alleviate concerns.

That is what Government will continue to do in the days that remain until the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

Regardless of how the UK leaves, we want to ensure that the impact of changes brought about by such a withdrawal are minimal.

The citizens were our foremost priority and central in our workplans in this regard. We introduced legislation to protect the UK workers,

students and pensioners living in Malta, and safeguarded their rights whatever the outcome of this process.

We are also pleased that the UK Government did the same vis-a-vis EU citizens staying in the UK – because we believe people should not be bargaining chips.

Moving on from the issues related to citizens however, there are other matters that we had to prepare for, including in areas that affect business. This is why when I took office as Minister I immediately took stock of the situation and the preparations that were already underway.

Fortunately, this Government had the foresight to start these preparations way back when negotiations with the UK were still at an early stage.
Not because it didn’t trust that there would be an agreement but because we always believed that it would be imprudent and irrational to take chances. The risks were far too great.

A lot of work was and still is ongoing behind the scenes and without much fanfare to compliment EU contingency measures. In the twelve weeks since I assumed the responsibilities of office I immediately recognised the importance of this work and ordered that efforts are further intensified because the last thing we want is to get caught off guard.  

I’m confident that we are adequately prepared so that come what may, there won’t be any major disruptions.

But that isn’t enough.

There are some preparations that Governments can’t do. This was also noted by the leaders in the European Council since the very beginning of this process.

You (the business community) too need to ‘Be Prepared’ for Brexit.

If you haven’t done so already, you need to analyse the impact this may have on your day to day, and longer term operations and adopt measures to mitigate them.

In doing so, we are committed to help you as much as we can. We have worked on tailor made schemes that will be launched in the coming days and which will provide you with targeted funding to assist in the process of determinig how Brexit may affect you.

We have also set up a helpline and will, as already announced, intensify our communication efforts to explain in a more detailed manner what the potential impact may be.

I, and I am quite sure the High Commissioner Gill and the Government he represents concurs with this view too, believe that we will continue to have a strong and healthy relationship with the United Kingdom.

There is too much that binds us to have it any other way.

READ MORE: British Brexit proposal is ‘reasonable compromise’, High Commissioner insists

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