British Prime Minister Theresa May has been in town for an informal EU summit in Malta – despite her plan to start negotiations for Brexit.
But leaders left it until later in the day, when she had left, to discuss shoring up popular support for the bloc.
In more than two years time, May will have to get used to being that awkward plus one on the guest list, instead of having a seat at the top table.
Now British members of parliament have backed triggering Article 50, May plans to take Britain out of the EU’s single market and says she is willing to walk away from a bad deal.
But her Maltese counterpart told Euronews all that tough talk could be just a bluff.
“I understand that Theresa May would want to position herself in that way at the start of negotiations; when you’re negotiating you definitely have to convey the message that it is not a do or die sort of negotiation,” said Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
Euronews’ James Franey reported from Malta: “Making the case for Brexit in Malta is, some ways, symbolic. It gained independence from Britain in 1964. Today, 12,000 British people live here, the country’s largest foreign community. The weather is better. So is the food.
“And British expats don’t have to go through that awful bother of mastering a foreign tongue. That’s because English is also an official language here.”
Colin Pilling is a former British Royal Air Force serviceman, and ‘remain’ voter, who has been in Malta for more than two decades.
“One of the main things I would say to her (Theresa May) is: look after your British expatriate communities and also our counterparts in the United Kingdom,” he said.
“If we lose all the bilateral agreements, then pensions, healthcare and all the other ancillary ways of living here. And that is one of the major things that is worrying us.”
British expat David Thomas, a ‘leave’ voter, added: “I think pensions and healthcare are an issue. But I think as long as you can get a deal with the EU countries so that British people living in the EU can remain. And I do feel that the people living in the UK from the EU should be able to remain as well.”
These are hugely complex questions that are without precedent in the EU and leaders will face many a sleepless night in Brussels before they get closer to any answers.