Brexit talks: EU leaders not bluffing UK over immigration rules says Malta PM

Joseph Muscat issued the warning to Theresa May ahead of his country taking over the EU Council presidency.

In a related video, Theresa May and Angela Merkel meet for bilateral talksITN

EU leaders are not attempting to bluff the UK government over the bloc's commitment to the free movement of people, the prime minister of Malta has said on Friday (25 November).

Joseph Muscat issued the warning with just over a month before his country assumes the EU Council's revolving presidency in January 2017.

Malta took on the role after the UK relinquished its scheduled six-month-long presidency following the Brexit vote on 23 June.

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Musca told BBC News that he wanted to see a "fair deal" for the UK, but ruled out full access to the EU's single-market if Whitehall insists on immigration curbs.

"It's just not happening," he said. "All of us have been pretty clear in our approach that we want a fair deal for the UK but that kind of fair deal can't translate itself into a superior deal.

"I know that there is absolutely no bluffing from the European side, at least in the council meetings I have attended, saying 'we will start in this position and then we will soften up'. No, this is really and truly our position."

Muscat's comments come just a day after the European Parliament President Martin Schulz, 60, confirmed that he would not seek a third term.

"Over the last months there has been a lot of speculation in the press about my future. I have now made the decision. I will not run as president of the European Parliament for a third term," he said.

"I have strived to strengthen the credibility and visibility of European politics and the influence of the directly elected European Parliament."

The left-winger will run for a seat in Germany's Bundestag in 2017 after his January exit. Talks between the EU and UK will start once Theresa May triggers Article 50, the official mechanism to split from Brussels.

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May has promised to start the process by March 2017, but the Conservative premier was dealt a blow when England's High Court ruled that MPs must have a vote on the issue.

The UK government is contesting the decision at the Supreme Court from 5 December, with a ruling expected in January 2017.

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