The island needs a strong Europe for its future security and prosperityby Vicky Pryce / October 5, 2016 / Leave a comment
Alarm bells have been ringing in Cyprus over Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in the referendum of 23rd June. The Cypriot residents in Britain, who with Maltese residents were the only other EU citizens allowed to vote in the referendum, would have voted overwhelmingly for Britain to stay.
Theresa May announced at the start of the Conservative Party Conference on Sunday that Article 50 will be invoked by March 2017—and that the government will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and transpose (and then change as wished) EU law into UK law once we formally leave the EU. The timetable for Brexit is clear, even if much else is not.
What will it mean for Cyprus? Its relationship with Britain has not always been a happy one of course, but ties go back a long way—to 1878 and the Congress of Berlin, when it was detached from the Ottoman Empire and became a British colony. Only in 1960 did Cyprus obtain its independence after a long and bitter terrorist campaign but the country is still part of the Commonwealth. The economic and political links cannot be exaggerated. With Greece and Turkey, the UK is a “guarantor” of the independence and territorial integrity of Cyprus. The law on the island is mainly British, which has proved of great benefit to the Cypriots in making the island attractive for incorporation and business investment. Of its million tourists a year, half are from Britain. Many Brits own second homes on the island and substantial numbers of them have retired to it.
Its currency is the euro, of course, and the impact of Brexit on the exchange rate and the spending power of Brits on the island are issues that are likely to affect Cyprus’s economic growth in the years to come. Britain is Cyprus’s second largest trading partner and there are an estimated 300,000 Britons of Cypriot origin in the UK—as well as many Cypriot passport holders. Cypriot students who come in large numbers to the UK are worried about higher tuition fees when Britain exits. And of course there is an issue with the two RAF bases at Akrotiri and Dhekelia, where some 15,000 Cypriots, EU citizens, live on what is British Sovereign territory. Their post-Brexit status is currently unclear.