“What does Brexit mean?”: Next EU council president criticises Tory stagnation


Next EU council president says Brexit deal will be “inferior to membership”

THE NEXT HOLDER of the president of the EU council has spoken out on the utter confusion surrounding the UK’s vote to exit the EU. 

Joseph Muscat, prime minister and leader of Malta’s Labour Party, will lead his nation’s presidency of the European Union council from January – meaning Malta will set the agenda for the council of ministers (the 28 EU states) in Brussels. 

Muscat met new UK Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday [Tuesday 20 September] hoping to expand on the current deadlock in London over the Brexit result. But he was left confused by the meeting that “didn’t discuss details” of the challenging negotiations ahead.

Speaking after the meeting on the terms of a UK exit from the EU, Muscat said: “It has to be a deal which is inferior to membership. So you can’t have the cake and eat it.”

“One of the problems Faisal,” he added to the Sky News reporter, “is that in order to negotiate you have to know what the other side wants. Right now we don’t know what the UK side wants. Now you can tell me if the UK government wants access to the single market? Because I don’t know.”

Almost three months since the Brexit vote, the UK government has failed to provide clarity on the basic approach for UK negotiations – such as whether it wants to remain in the single market.

Muscat was told that, in May’s own terms, “Brexit means Brexit.”

Laughing in response, he said: “But what does Brexit mean at the end of the day?”

Traditional UK allies such as Ireland, Sweden and Denmark have already signalled their distance from the Brexit result – with all three refusing to support Tory calls to renegotiate freedom of movement. 

The EU27 and EU institutions stipulate that a state cannot be a member of the single market in goods and services without accepting the free movement of people.

Muscat also spoke with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon over the summer.

Nicola Sturgeon reveals talks with next president of the European Union council

The Scottish Government said the discussions were “to outline our position to pursue all possible options to protect Scotland’s interests in Europe”.

Picture courtesy of European Council

Check out what people are saying about how important CommonSpace is. Pledge your support today.