Maria Micallef

Managing Partner, RSM Malta

Maria Micallef is managing partner at RSM Malta. She has extensive experience in servicing local and international companies in M&A, corporate finance, business planning and risk management. She is a visiting lecturer at the University of Malta and provides training courses on risk management and internal audit. Ms Micallef has a B.A. Hons Accountancy degree and is a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Fraud Examiner. She is a fellow of the Malta Institute of Accountants, a member of the US Institute of Internal Auditors and a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. She is also a council member of the Malta Institute of Accountants and was its President from 2013 to 2015.

Brexit: not a complete surprise

Thursday 30th June 2016

The European Union is the result of the ‘desire of the peoples of Europe to transcend their ancient divisions in order to forge a common destiny, while remaining proud of their national identities and history’ – a noble project founded on the values of respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.

All 28 Member States accept and treasure these values and none have an issue with them – indeed those coming from the eastern block and other European countries that had experienced tyranny regard the EU as the safeguard against a return to a treacherous past.

Britain’s relationship with Europe however has been difficult from the start. The French President Charles De Gaulle twice vetoed the UK’s application to join the EU in the 1960s, insisting that they were not economically and politically prepared for it. Finally, the UK entered the then EEC in 1971, together with Ireland and Denmark.

During its 40+ years of membership, the UK was probably the Member State that had the most tumultuous relationship with the EU (remember the Thatcher years?) Some attribute this to the fact that Britain is an island with its own glorious history; one that more often than not, though certainly not always, was on the right side of history.

When you think about it, the outcome of Brexit is not a complete surprise. Disappointing certainly but not surprising really.

For the past 40 years, the UK media have done a lot of EU bashing, tainting reporting in a manner as to reinforce editorial and political opinion rather than report the facts. This, in reality, is a reflection of a trend that has gained momentum in these past ten years or more, where news-reporting media nowadays is more intent on making the news rather than reporting it. They start off with facts, and then upload their own strata of opinions that are an interpretation of the facts – except that nowadays with the tools in hand this is being done so skillfully that the facts and opinion become intertwined and appear as one, with no difference between the two.

Then there are those that use the media to blare out their half-truths and sometimes outright lies. And the media, rather than exposing them, panders to them – whatever sells, right?

“I heard it in the news,” some say, implying de facto it must be true – well, not so fast Jack. It may pay you to be more discerning and see who is behind the report and what their editorial leaning and motivation is.

Brexit came about because of a politician’s (David Cameron) ambition to have the conservative party re-elected with a majority in parliament – something the conservatives had not managed to do in 18 years. He gambled with Britain’s future, putting its long-term prosperity under threat because it suited political ambition. This brings us to another issue – the caliber of our generation of politicians where values and principles count less and where the Machiavellian ‘end justifies the means’ view is predominant.

I don’t think history will be kind to David Cameron. And so it should be.
First, he drags a referendum into the equation, and then he heads a ‘Remain’ campaign that many regarded as arrogant and divorced from day-to-day realities. He was expertly assisted by the opposition leader, who’s abysmal and lacklustre performance (not sure if willfully or otherwise) must have driven numerous labour party supporters in the opposite direction.

The economic argument lost to immigration – something that was more pressing to the citizen, possibly because of the fairly good economic time in the UK at present. How ironic and sad.

So Brexit it is. Whether we agree with it or not is not relevant now. The UK has voted to leave the EU, dealing the biggest blow to the project of unity in the EU since WWII and indeed, to the unity of the UK.

What is relevant however is the fact that the European Union is meant to reflect the will of the citizens to build a common future. The Brexit outcome does bring into question whether the ‘will of the citizens’ is being reflected or is seen to be reflected in EU decisions – clearly it is not. And this is why the EU needs to change and be seen to change. This is why a hurried meeting of the ‘founder members’ alone is out of place, as what message is this imparting at this early Brexit stage – that the votes and opinions of some EU Member States are more important than others?