“Leaders of the Brexit campaign made some ludicrous claims such as Turkey will be joining the EU very soon or that leaving the EU would permit the UK to put £350 million a week back into the NHS. These claims are now being seen for what they were… outright lies.” “It’s not that they should be given a hard time or punished, but it has to be clear that you’re either in or you’re out and the UK has now opted for out,” he stresses. Looking back on the lead-up to the EU referendum that drove the UK towards Brexit, Mr Mallia believes that the referendum was won on a campaign of misconceptions and even some ‘fake news’ – a term we have come to hear so often in the last 12 months. “I honestly believe that a number of people voted to leave without actually knowing what they were signing up for. Leaders of the Brexit campaign made some ludicrous claims such as Turkey will be joining the EU very soon or that leaving the EU would permit the UK to put £350 million a week back into the NHS. These claims are now being seen for what they were… outright lies. I have my serious doubts that the referendum result would be the same if it were held again today. But, it has happened now, and there is no going back. “Politically there have also had to be big changes. Before Brexit, Theresa May was in the ‘Remain’ camp, but she is now clearly committed to making Brexit happen. In her words, ‘Brexit is Brexit’ – so that stance has been made clear. She also set her marker at the very start of the process by saying that
‘no deal is better than a bad deal’. This has now put her in a vulnerable position subject to the hysterics of the tabloids which, at some point or another, are very likely going to call on May to leave the negotiations table. It’s this sort of approach, and pressure, that could leave the UK without the much-talked about potential ‘special relationship’ with the EU although I very much doubt that any UK politician is going to take such a leap in the dark.” When it comes to the implications for Malta, Mr Mallia believes they will be both positive and negative – although the extent of just how negative depends on the deal that will be negotiated. “This is the same across the EU, largely because only time will tell exactly what the repercussions of this new deal will be and what the future 44
relationship will look like. The EU has been clear that that any future relationship will only be discussed once the EU’s exit negotiations are finalised, so it will all be up in the air for some time.” And while the conceivable negatives for Malta are impossible to pin down in full, some are more obvious – such as for local companies currently exporting to the UK tariff-free, or providing a product or service that is automatically accepted. “Whether or not this type of business can still take place will be determined by whether or not a free trade agreement is enacted. One fact is certain, Malta has quite some exposure to the UK economy so any changes to the current relationship could have a considerable impact. APRIL / MAY 2017
The Official Business magazine of the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise & Industry since 1947.