On 16 June 1971, the Nationalist Party lost the elections to the Malta Labour Party led by Dom Mintoff by just one seat. The Nationalist won 27 seats to Labour's 28 seats. The Nationalist under Dr Borg Olivier had ruled Malta continuously since independence in 1964.
41 Commando Group Royal Marines
In 1971, the British Government decided to base 41 Cdo Gp with 79 Cdo Bty RA in Malta in support of NATO's southern flank. The Cdo Gp was to replace the Devon and Dorset Regiment as the Malta garrison.
The advance party of 41 Cdo Gp RM consisting of 91 marines and 120 women and children arrived in the last week of June 1971. It was to be followed by the main body of 900 men on HMS Bulwark in mid July. On 9 July, however, the move of 41 Cdo RM to Malta was postponed as a result of the political row on the future role of the defence bases.
On 17 June 1971, Dom Mintoff cancelled the 1964 ten year Defence and Financial Assistance Agreement which gave Britain the right to station its forces in Malta. He also withdrew the right of NATO Forces to use the island.
Mintoff insisted on negotiating a new agreement, under which aid would be replaced by a form of rent for military facilities. In Sept 1971, an agreement was reached whereby Malta would receive £5.25 million a year in rent from Britain, and £4.25 million from NATO.
However, in Dec 1971, Mintoff increased his demand for an extra £9.5 million, together with restrictions on the use of the base by other NATO powers and set a dead line of 31 Dec 1971 for the withdrawal of British Troops.
On 29 Dec 1971, Britain responded to Mintoff's ultimatum by announcing the withdrawal of its 3,500 troops and 7,000 dependents from Malta. The deadline was extended to 15 Jan 1972 by the Malta Government to allow for an orderly withdrawal.