Thursday

27th Apr 2017

May's speech was not a war declaration, Malta says

  • Maltese PM Joseph Muscat (r) talking to his British colleague Theresa May (Photo: Number 10/Flickr)

British prime minister Theresa May's confirmation that she intended to pull the UK out of the single market was "very welcome" and helped to clarify the issue, the Maltese prime minister said on Wednesday (18 January).

Joseph Muscat, whose country holds the rotating six-month EU presidency, told journalists at a press conference that May's long-awaited speech on Tuesday was “a statement of clarity”.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Juncker: 'not in a hostile mood'

Referring to British press articles, Muscat said he “did not see in the prime minister's words, when I heard her first-hand, the sort of declaration of war that some media are depicting it was”.

The Times had summarised the speech as: “May to EU: give us fair deal or you'll be crushed”, while the Guardian put the title “May's Brexit threat to Europe” on its front page.

May had said she would rather have no deal than “a bad deal for Britain”. She said that if the remaining EU countries tried to punish Britain for leaving, that would be “an act of calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe”.

Muscat's positive response was mirrored by German chancellor Angela Merkel, who said the speech had "given us a clear impression of how Great Britain wants to proceed", according to the Reuters news agency.

The Maltese PM noted that May said the UK would not aim to stay in the EU's single market.

That was “very welcome”, because that aligns with the remaining 27 EU countries' position that the four freedoms – of people, capital, labour, and goods – are indivisible, he said.

“It respects our position that our four freedoms are a package,” said Muscat at a press conference in Strasbourg, held after he addressed the plenary of the European Parliament.

"Yesterday’s statement by my colleague and friend, prime minister Theresa May helps clarify the priorities of the British government during the impending negotiations."

He announced that once the United Kingdom has triggered Article 50 of the EU treaty, which will eventually lead to Brexit, the remaining 27 member states would hold a special summit.

The EU leaders would convene “within a short period of time, possibly four to five weeks from notification, with the aim of establishing the guidelines that will serve as a mandate to the Commission to negotiate”.

Part of those guidelines will be whether the Brexit talks will also include the future trade relations between the UK and the EU, or whether Britain needs to wrap up exit talks first before it can negotiate on a new trade treaty, Muscat said.

He noted he was “very impressed” with the preparations done by the commission's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and his team.

Barnier's boss, commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, sat alongside Muscat during the press conference.

He said talks would be “very, very difficult”, but that the EU is “not in a hostile mood” towards Britain.

Later on Wednesday, EU Council president Donald Tusk said May's speech "proves that the unified position of 27 Member States on the indivisibility of the Single Market was finally understood and accepted by London".

Tusk also said "we took note of the warm and balanced words of Prime Minister May on European integration, which were much closer to the narrative of Winston Churchill than that of the American President-elect Trump".

Theresa May outlines 'hard Brexit'

The British prime minister confirms that the UK will leave the single market when it leaves the EU and will seek a new trade deal.

Juncker to visit May in London next week

The British prime minister invited the European Commission president for a discussion about the upcoming EU exit negotiations, while she prepares for general elections on 8 June with a "hard" Brexit agenda.

Column / Brexit Briefing

May's drive for one-party Brexit state

Snap election will kill off attempts to reopen debate on second referendum and inflict further damaged on confused opposition.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  3. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  6. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  7. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  8. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  10. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  11. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  12. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children

Latest News

  1. EU agency stuck with London rent bill
  2. EU anti-fraud office ditches Martin Schulz probe
  3. Commission launches bid to make Europe social
  4. MEPs act to strip Le Pen of immunity in fake jobs case
  5. EU starts legal action against Hungary
  6. Brexit is about Europe's future as well
  7. Power struggle in Greenland: Three reasons why the EU should care
  8. Nordic and Baltic countries step up digitalisation efforts