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20 June, 2024
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British High Commissioner talks trade, free movement after Brexit

Little is expected to change during the transitional period, but the long-term future still remains to be negotiated

Newsroom / CNA

An ambitious agreement with zero quotas and zero tariffs in trade with the EU until the end of this year is the ultimate goal for the United Kingdom which is leaving the European Union after 47 years.

Brexit is the first ever exit of a member state from the EU.

In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency, British High Commissioner in Cyprus, Stephen Lillie, talks about what tomorrow will look like, and what applies for Cypriot and British nationals living in both countries, which he said share a deep historical relationship.

“We are leaving the EU on Friday at 11pm and we will be a fully independent, sovereign state. We will be very active on the world stage as a liberal, free trading nation, a nation that stands for the rules based on the international system for human rights, for western values,” Lillie said.

As such, he added, “we will continue to have a close relationship with the EU but it will be a relationship between sovereign equals.”

The relationship between Britain and Cyprus predates the participation of the two countries in EU. Lillie stressed. “There are so many connections between the UK and Cyprus based on the history, people to people links, on the legal system, the institutions, the language, the love of Cypriots for British education, the love of British people for Cyprus’ beaches.”

Trade with Cyprus

The first thing the UK wants to do is to begin negotiations with the EU on their future partnership and “in the heart of that will be an ambitious free trade agreement with zero quotas, zero tariffs, but nevertheless outside the single market and customs union.”

“Let us make it clear: It is a free trade agreement, not a membership of a custom’s union, not a membership of a single market, not a regulatory alignment with the EU,” he stressed.

According to the British High Commissioner, the period until the end of 2020 is one of transition. The UK, he said, wishes to continue to trade freely with its European neighbours.

Whether tariffs or quotas will be imposed following the UK’s transition period depends on the EU

“In particular for Cyprus that means you can continue to export your goods, 46 per cent of halloumi to the UK,” he said.

Until the end of this year the UK will continue to follow EU rules, including the single market and customs union. Therefore, he explained, Cypriot goods will continue to flow into the UK as they do now, without tariffs.

Whether tariffs or quotas will be imposed following the UK’s 11-month transition period depends on the EU and whether it agrees on zero tariffs and quotas, Lillie highlighted.

“We want to have agreements on services because obviously there is a huge level of interconnectedness between the legal, accounting and other professional service sectors between UK and Cyprus”.

In relation to UK university fees for Cypriot nationals, Lillie said that students who will begin their studies in the coming academic year, September - October 2020, will enjoy the present fees status.

However, the situation is less clear for the following academic year, he noted.


Free movement of people

While the free movement of Cypriot nationals living, studying and working in UK, will enjoy free movement beyond the transition period, British nationals in Cyprus will be able to do so until the end of this period, Lillie said.

Referring to the online settlement scheme in place in the UK for EU nationals, Lillie said that more than 9,000 Cypriot nationals have registered so far.

“They have until the end of June next year to do that registration and then they can continue live, work and study in UK with all the rights they currently have, including access to the NHS,” he said.

Regarding temporary visits, tourist or business trips, Cypriots will also continue to travel using their ID and using the UK and EU channels in airports. The UK, he assures “is an open, globally-minded nation, so we will not put the shutters down”.

Regarding British nationals living in Cyprus, Lillie said that there are 70,000 residing in the area of the island controlled by the government and 13,000 in the north.

British nationals residing in government-controlled areas are covered by the withdrawal agreement, and must ensure they register for an MEU1 or MEU3 card, issued by the Interior Ministry, before the end of this year.

They will continue travelling to and from the island without restrictions and have access to new national health plan, GESY, just like the other residents of Cyprus, he added.

For those living in the north, Lillie explained that they are not covered by the withdrawal agreement, and will remain unaffected during the transition period, remaining free to travel, including across the green line.

However, what will happen after the end of 2020 is less clear as Nicosia has been drawing up proposals on how to implement the Green Line Regulation in the future, Lillie stressed.

“British nationals are crossing the green line in either direction so we see no reason why that needs to change,” he said, expressing the hope that “the government of Cyprus will have the same view.”

Referring to Cypriot citizens living in the British Bases in Cyprus, Lillie explained that they too will remain unaffected as they are covered by the protocol to the withdrawal agreement. EU rules will continue to apply there and the bases will be part of a customs union, he added.

Cyprus  |  Britain  |  Brexit  |  trade  |  free movement

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