Teaming up with the British High Commission in Malta and MEUSAC, the Malta Chamber led a discussion on the desired nature of economic ties between Malta and the UK post 2019 on 4th December at the Exchange Buildings.
The event featured the participation of key stakeholders including Mr James Ashton Bell, Head of Trade and Investment at the Confederation of British Industry, the Honourable Minister Dr. Christian Cardona, Mr Ronald Attard and Mr Stefano Mallia and High Commissioner Stuart Gill. The panel discussion was moderated by leading business journalist Ms Vanessa Macdonald.
Malta Chamber President Frank V. Farrugia said that UK’s exit from the EU will most likely have a negative impact on the Maltese economy, given the close ties with the UK’s economy. “Most definitely some form of trade arrangement will need to be retained and the Chamber looks forward to discussions on the matter within both the Government’s BREXIT Unit and the BREXIT Taskforce” he said.
“It is imperative that the UK Government promotes the element of compromise and strive towards a win-win solution for both sides” he said.
At the same time, the President urged the Maltese Government to be a voice of reason during the ongoing debates and negotiations since any disruptions to present trade practices will have severe repercussions on the Maltese economy.
Keynote speaker James Ashton-Bell, highlighted the potential impact of Brexit as well as the likely scenarios for continued trade between the UK and the EU and the UK and Malta following 2019.
Mr Ashton-Bell said that the fact that an overwhelming majority of 80% of CBI members were against Brexit but the UK has since fundamentally accepted that the largest share of the negative impact of Brexit will be felt by the UK. Mr Asthon-Bell clarified that the UK will not seek to form part of the single market or the customs union, which will translate into additional costs for trade.
Businesses take decisions to modify or update processes and systems months or years in advance but the lack of clarity is not allowing for the necessary preparation time. The present uncertainty means businesses contacted by CBI are actually planning to adapt to worst-case scenarios based on the outcomes of negotiations thus far, Mr Ashton-Bell explained.
These reasons, among many others, led Asthon-Bell to call for a transition period during which the status quo in terms of trade regulations in maintained so as to allow business to adjust accordingly.
Mr Ashton-Bell stressed that a period of status-quo is essential in order to best deliver the political results the UK and Brussels politicians need as well as the economic results that the UK and EU citizens need.
The panel discussion with the participation of Hon Minister Dr Christian Cardona, Mr Ashton Bell, Mr Stefano Mallia and Mr Ronald Attard discussed the sentiment of the Maltese Business community, potential opportunities and stumbling blocks in the negotiation process, desirable outcomes and situations that must be avoided.
Concluding the event, High Commissioner Stuart Gill, appealed to Maltese business to accept the fact that Brexit will happen and to allow room for serious thought and adaptation throughout 2018. He stressed that trade remains good for everyone and so it is fundamental for politicians to find a solution that allows the intense relationship between Malta and the UK to not only remain, but to develop further.