European Union Co-ordination Department Director General and Head of Brexit Unit Glenn Micallef speaks to Keith Zahra
As the end of the transition formalising Britian’s withdrawal from the European Union edges closer, negotiators in Brussels and London continue to bicker on anything from fisheries to state aid, with both sides signalling that they want to reach a deal but giving little concessions to make sure that such objective is achieved.
The big question mark on what will happen come December 31st, should not be a reason for not being prepared. Glenn Micallef, who Heads the Brexit Unit and EU Coordination Department emphasised on the importance of businesses in all sectors to ensure that all the necessary steps are taken to prepare for any eventuality.
Speaking to CDE.News, Micallef explained that Government cannot do the work for each individual business. Its role is to ensure that all entrepeneurs, whichever the size of their business, are informed, and that they have the necessary tools to make the right decisions and take the necessary actions in the respective industty. He urged businesses to be pro-active, and rather then resigning themselves to additional challenges, to seek to identify alternative solutions to the matter.
Pressed to specify his reasoning, Micallef explained that if the EU and the UK fail to reach some form of trade agreement, unfortunately this will mean that the EU will be imposing duties on products originating in the UK.
In this situation, local businesses who source their prime material from the UK, will do well to “shop around”, and identify other countries through which to secure the same material at lower prices. Indeed, the EU has over the past years reached a wide array of free trade agreements with a various countries worldwide, including in developing countries, which could mean businesses being able to benefit elsewhere.
Micallef explained that Government is working hand in hand with the Malta Chamber to deliver the right messages to industry. The two sides will be shortly organising a series of four consultation sessions covering areas such as trade, transport, human resources and employment, VAT, as well as fiscal and company law issues.
Mr Micallef explained that although there was no clear outcome yet from Brexit negotiations, Government was working on the basis of two possible scenarios, these being some form of free trade agreement with the UK or a Hard Brexit which would see the two sides resorting to WTO rules. He insisted that Government departments are being fully prepared for any eventuality, with the Customs Department – which in case of a hard brexit – would probably be the hardest hit, having already recurited some 30 additional resources to cope with the expcted increased volume of work.
Questioned what are the most frequent questions reaching his unit, Micallef noted that it is generally UK nationals based in Malta – there are some 13,400 – that look for additional information. UK ntionals have to apply for a residence permit by mid-next year.
While the Maltese population did not seem too fussed about these developments, there was indeed one worry which cropped up quite often in Micallef’s interactions with locals. Many indeed are aware of an agreement with the UK for the treatment of Maltese patients facing life-threatening conditions, such as cancer. Micallef sought to assure that there will be no changes in this regard: “Not only healthcare is not a matter of EU competence, but this particular arrangement is subject of a specific agreement between Malta and the UK – which will not change irrespective of Britian’s membership of the European Union.”