A leading Brexit Tory MP has dismissed Malta as a “tiny little island” and accused its prime minister of trying to make money out of Brexit.
Malta’s, prime minister, Joseph Muscat, has said European courts will continue to “dish out judgments” to Britain if the UK opts for a transitional deal after it leaves the EU.
His government holds the rotating presidency of the EU for the first half of this year and his comments come after Theresa May pledged to take the UK out of the jurisdiction of the European Court.
The Maltese premier made clear than any transition trade arrangements, which could last well into the 2020s, would see European institutions retain the upper hand.
“An essential part of those transitional arrangements will be the governing institutions of that period,” he said, according to The Times.
“It is pretty clear to me that the institutions should be the European institutions. So it is not a transition period where British institutions take over, but it is a transition period where the European Court of Justice is still in charge of dishing out judgments.”
Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin, a leading Brexit campaigner and senior backbencher, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in response that Muscat was “anxious to scoop, for his tiny little island, some of the spoils that he believes will fall out of Brexit”.
“Most countries aren’t in the EU - they are absolutely fine. The biggest transition the EU wants is for us to continue paying into the EU budget for as long as possible,” he said.
“They are absolutely paranoid about us leaving because we take away our net contribution, which is a very substantial contribution to the EU budget.
“Of course there will be lots of things we’ll continue to co-operate with the European Union, on defence and security, and foreign policy, which are unconditional - they are not part of the negotiations.
May, who will deliver a key-note Brexit address next Tuesday, told last autumn’s Tory conference: “We are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.”
The prime minister will be under pressure to use next week’s speech to spell out a broader strategy ahead of triggering formal divorce negotiations, which she has promised by April.
Reports have suggested May will commit to pulling out of the single market if the European Union fails to make concessions on the free movement of its citizens, although they have been dismissed as speculation.