The Electoral Commission will be removing UK citizens which will not classify as European citizens from the electoral register ahead of the European Parliament elections, in the case the decision is final prior to the publication of the electoral register. However due to the recent developments, the government is preparing itself for the various scenarios, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told the House on Monday. The removal of the UK citizens from the electoral register will depend on what happens next on Brexit, with the Prime Minister outlining the various scenarios in Parliament.
During a Ministerial statement, Muscat reported to the House about the summit between the European leaders which took place on 21 and 22 March and during which the extension to Article 50 was discussed following a request by the British Prime Minister Theresa May. The conclusions of the summit were tabled in parliament on Monday.
The British Prime Minister asked for an extension until 30 June, so that the United Kingdom could eventually leave the bloc in an orderly manner. However it was requested that the United Kingdom is given the extension without having to hold MEP elections in May but allowing enough time for the UK to ratify the deal.
Speaking about Brexit’s impact on Malta, the Prime Minister said that the Government will keep to what was said during a January press conference in which it was clearly stated that citizens of a country which is not an EU member state should not have the right to vote in upcoming EP elections. The Prime Minister explained that ahead of 29 March, the government worked on a legal notice which will grant the Electoral Commission the power necessary to remove those citizens which are no longer considered to be citizens of EU Member State from the electoral register.
The Prime Minister however said that with the recent developments, the Government was in discussion with the Office of the Attorney General and with the Electoral Commission chairman in order to prepare itself for all possible scenarios.
Muscat explained that if the United Kingdom approves the arrangement during this week then the citizens will be removed from the electoral register as they would no longer be European citizens, therefore no longer hold voting rights. However the Government sought legal advice over the adjustments required in the case of advanced voting which will take place on 18 May and during which UK citizens will still hold the status of European citizens.
In the case where no agreement is reached on Brexit until the electoral register is published, the Government is considering ways on how to remove UK citizens from the electoral register even in case that the UK’s departure date is after the publication of the register.
Muscat explained that in the scenario that Article 50 is revoked, or the departure is later than May, then the UK citizens would remain EU citizens and therefore eligible to vote.
The Prime Minister also recalled that the Government proposed amendments to the Local Council elections Act to include a proposal which would allow the UK citizens to stand for election and vote in the local council elections. This is currently in the second reading and will soon be in front of the relevant Parliamentary Committee.
Preparing for a no-deal Brexit
Muscat informed that the Government is finalizing the preparations for a no-deal Brexit scenario. He said that, at a European level, 17 out of the 20 legislative proposals put forward by the European Commission have been concluded. The proposals aimed at reducing the negative impact by a no-deal, covered various sectors including transport, financial services, Erasmus+ among others.
The Prime Minister explained that in the near future, a law covering visa regulations for UK citizens is expected to be concluded. UK citizens are expected to be given a visa waiver when travelling to the Bloc on short touristic stays.
The Government’s cabinet is expected to discuss a draft legislation regarding UK citizens rights in Malta after Brexit. According to the Prime Minister, the plans drawn up by the Maltese Government were described as “excellent” by the European Commission.
The Prime Minister explained that various Ministries and authorities falling under them, are preparing for Brexit. Such preparations included courses aimed at businesses with trade relations with the UK. Muscat described the efforts undertaken by the Maltese government as attempts to remain Britain’s closest ally in any eventuality.
“There is lack of information on Brexit” – Delia
Opposition Leader Adrian Delia claimed that various groups within society have been left in the dark over the impact of Brexit on the country.
Speaking in Parliament, the Opposition leader underlined the need to duly inform the British citizens about Brexit and how it will affect them in Malta.
Delia told the House that he met with some 1,200 stakeholders all having their own particular interest in Brexit, with Delia saying that the stakeholders have been left in the dark on the possible departure of the United Kingdom from the bloc.
The Opposition leader remarked that the United Kingdom is Malta’s principal ally against tax harmonisation which would be detrimental to the financial service sector.