We’re losing a close EU ally – Zrinzo Azzopardi

British residents in Spain take part in an anti-Brexit demonstration, in Malaga, Spain September 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Brexit presents various challenges to Malta, not least the loss of “one of the best allies we had” in the EU, Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi said this evening.

Speaking in Parliament during debate on the Budget Measures Implementation Bill, Zrinzo Azzopardi acknowledged that while no impact has been felt as of yet due to a transition period that will last until the end of the year, the UK’s departure from the EU last Friday had numerous implications.

Not least was the absence of a country which often shared Malta’s position on various issues, he insisted. “When we enter European institutions, this is a reality we have to face.”

While the parliamentary secretary did not elaborate, one issue which often found Malta and the UK pitted against much of the EU concerns taxation. Malta’s tax regime has often seen the country labelled as a tax haven – including in a resolution overwhelmingly approved by MEPs last March – and many member states have been pushing for moves against what they perceive to be unjust tax avoidance measures implemented to their detriment.

While other countries have similarly embraced low-tax environments, the UK was, by far, the largest and most influential member state on Malta’s side of the debate.

Zrinzo Azzopardi also highlighted another issue brought about by Britain’s departure, one more closely related to his own portfolio: the departure of the second-largest net contributor to the EU’s budget, after Germany.

“This will need to be taken in context when future budgets are discussed,” he said, adding that Malta increasingly needed to make sure that it used up all the funds it was eligible for.

The parliamentary secretary said that Malta would continue to pursue close ties with the UK wherever possible, though he noted that in a number of sectors, bilateral deals would not be possible as the EU would maintain jurisdiction.