The UK’s future matters to us - Adrian Delia
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The UK’s future matters to us - Adrian Delia

Unfortunately, our government has not been up to the Brexit task

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

I followed much of what has been said and written about Brexit. Geoffrey Cox, the United Kingdom’s Attorney General, gave one of the most evocative speeches on this topic. He reminded parliamentarians that 45 years of integration organically linked the United Kingdom’s and the European Union’s legal systems into one. Separating the two, he said, is “as if we were to separate from a living organism, with all its arteries and veins, a central part. A living organ from this body politic”.

There is no painless procedure to separate the UK from the EU. It is up to the citi­zens of the UK to decide whether the gain from this separation merits the inevitable pain. The current debate in the UK, both within Parliament and beyond, clearly shows that, so far as the current deal is concerned, the pain by far outweighs the gain.

The search is on for a different solution. It is unclear if such a solution exists and whether it can be identified in time by March 29 – the day when Brexit is meant to happen.

To us in Malta, the Brexit debate is of particular interest. To say that the ties between Malta and the UK are strong would be an understatement. We could talk about historical and political ties spanning centuries. We are the only other country in the EU, besides the UK and Ireland, of course, where English is an official language. Our system of administration is based on the Whitehall method and our system of governance is based on the Westminster model. But the roots go even deeper and are much more personal than this.

Today there are thousands of UK citizens who consider Malta as their adopted home. Conversely, there are hundreds of Maltese citizens who study and work in the UK. It is in the interest of both our nations that arrangements are set in place to ensure minimum disruption to the lives of these families and individuals.

It is difficult to quantify the contribution of the UK expat community in Malta but I have no hesitation in saying that it is a solid contribution. Just as I would have no hesi­tation in saying that the Maltese community in the UK continues to contribute to the well-being of their host country.

I am sure that we could have done more on a political level in the Brexit process to underline the importance of a unified Europe

There are then the deep-rooted commercial ties. Again, these ties are stronger than strong. We must ensure that they remain so whatever the outcome of Brexit. The jobs of thousands of workers in Malta depend on the continuation of the excellent commercial relations between Malta and the UK. Any arrangement that dama­ges or puts into question this commercial relationship should be shot down.

The two countries also developed strong ties in the health sector. Maltese patients make use of various medical services in the UK while many Maltese healthcare professionals serve with pride and dedication in UK hospitals. These arrangements need to be protected in the interest of patients both in Malta and the UK.

I have to register my disappointment that during this momentous time, Malta’s standing and reputation in the international community faltered. Our government was and continues to operate under the dark cloud of corruption. The perceived levels of corruption have seriously dented our country’s credibility and, therefore, our ability to contribute with greater significance in the important fora and boardrooms where commercial and political decisions are taken. Without this baggage, Malta could have attracted more investment from the UK.

But my concerns go beyond the commercial implications. There were moments in time when Malta contributed positively to solving complex political knots both at regional and global level. There were times when Malta played a significant political role despite our limited geographical size. From Arvid Pardo’s Law of the Sea to the role played by Malta in bringing the US-USSR cold war to an end, to the more recent role played by Malta during the Libyan conflict in 2011, Malta showed that it could punch above its weight.

I am sure that we could have done more on a political level in the Brexit process to underline the importance of a unified Europe. I attribute this failure not to our professional diplomats but to our government, which as I said earlier, was and remains engrossed in rebutting the serious claims of corruption.

Last week, the Times of Malta reported how the spectre of corruption is having a major negative effect on the living standards of the expat community in Malta. An international report sadly defined Malta as the biggest losers in this regard in 2018.

Looking towards the future, the ball is now in the UK’s court. This does not mean that we can or should sit pretty, waiting for events to unfold. As an Opposition we pledged to give our full support to any initiatives aimed at minimising the negative impacts of Brexit. We proposed and will continue to propose solutions which we feel can help during this difficult transition. Our doors are open and we will work to ensure that the door between Malta and the UK will remain open at all hours whatever the course of action chosen by the British electorate.

Adrian Delia is Leader of the Opposition and the Nationalist Party.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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