Britain will still be subject to European courts well into the next decade after Brexit, a top European Union (EU) leader has said.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, whose island nation currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will still be “dishing out judgments” for Britain if it wants transitional arrangements with the EU after Brexit.
If the UK does go for such an arrangement, it could last another five years after Brexit has been formally concluded in 2019.
Speaking in Maltese capital Valletta, Mr Muscat said it was impossible to say exactly how long a transitional period would be, but adding it was in no one’s interests “to try to play the game that we have very long negotiations and in the meantime have the cake and eat it”.
Malta’s Finance Minister Edward Scicluna also said British Prime Minister Theresa May would have to “blink first” in the Brexit negotiations if she wants EU leaders to agree transition agreements.
Mrs May has hinted she would like a transitional period after Brexit to help UK industries to adapt, however exactly how this will happen remains unclear.
Mr Muscat’s intervention is noteworthy because it is the first time an EU leader has mentioned a specific condition as part of a transitional deal. However, it is not clear whether this is simply positioning by the EU’s smallest member state to increase its own importance.
“What areas should be considered for transitional arrangements? I think financial services would be quite obvious but it also depends on the demands that will be put by the British government,” Mr Muscat said.
The UK has yet to trigger Article 50 to begin the formal divorce process, but many EU governments want Britain out before the next elections to the European Parliament in May 2019 – a view shared by Malta.