The Commonwealth – A new pathway?

Posted on 29 Jun 2016, by Kyriakos Constantinou

Following the unprecedented referendum the 23rd of June 2016, in which UK voted to leave EU, and within the newly established environment, all countries will now try to define the way forward as far as the status of their relationship with the UK is concerned.

Cyprus can view its relationship with the UK through another capacity, as a member of the Commonwealth. The joint membership of the Commonwealth demonstrates the historical bonds and shared values of the two countries.

What is the Commonwealth?

The Commonwealth association has its roots many decades ago and is considered as one of the world’s oldest political associations of states.

It came into being in 1949 and it is an association of 53 Nations, all of which were formerly part of the British Empire.

Among the Commonwealth Countries are Cyprus, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Cyprus and Commonwealth

The Republic of Cyprus became a member of the Commonwealth in 1961, soon after attaining its independence. It has since been actively participating in all Commonwealth activities.

Cyprus is one of only three Commonwealth member countries located in Europe.

The current context for Commonwealth Citizens

  • In the United Kingdom, according to the law, Commonwealth citizens are not considered to be "foreign" or "aliens";
  • Commonwealth consular services: Consular services exist for countries in good standing. Commonwealth citizens who are in a country that is not presented at a consulate by their government, can get representation and a temporary ‘’commonwealth citizen’’ passport issued at a British Embassy;
  • Visa free entry: A commonwealth citizen may be entitled to visa-free entry into a fellow commonwealth nation, if the country he is travelling from is deemed to be in good standing.

This of course depends on bilateral agreements between Commonwealth Member states, especially under the shadow of Brexit;

  • Commonwealth Scholarships: A citizen of a developed Commonwealth country can apply for Scholarships for PhD or split-site PhD study at a UK university.

It is noted that Cyprus is considered to be a developed Commonwealth country.

Brexit and Commonwealth

Following the result of the referendum, one of the questions that currently arises is whether Brexit will allow Britain to embrace the Commonwealth?

Many argue that Britain will now be in a position to negotiate its own bilateral free trade deal with Commonwealth countries. Therefore, this might be an opportunity to create a Commonwealth free trade area.

In general, the new development might be seen as an opportunity for Britain to attribute more importance to the economic and business relationships between the members of the Commonwealth and therefore create stronger bonds, which will eventually have direct effect on all Commonwealth citizens.

The aforementioned are considered to be a new pathway which needs time in order to be sufficiently defined. What is evident at this point is that Commonwealth countries could have an advantageous starting point.

In the case of Cyprus, in addition to the Commonwealth background, the procedure to safeguard the bilateral relations with the UK and to identify new mechanisms of cooperation can be further enhanced by the fact that both countries share the same common law legal framework and there is to some extent compatibility in institutions. Furthermore, the UK Cypriot community could be seen as a living human bridge between Cyprus and UK and it could be taken into consideration in the process of formulating the new bilateral framework between the two countries.

As a concluding comment, it is important to stress that nothing will change overnight, with Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty yet to be triggered and subsequent full transition out of the EU taking minimum two years.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought on your specific circumstances. For further information, please contact Kyriakos Constantinou.