I am sure many of us have been closely following the political events taking place in the United Kingdom over the past few days, following the political process and the draft agreement regarding Brexit and the relationship between the UK and the EU.
I believe it will be helpful to provide a short recap and explanation of the last few days’ events in relation to the agreement, where there has been much discussion in the UK recently and to explain what this means for the UK residents in Cyprus.
The resume has supported and defended the draft withdrawal agreement with Brussels by which, if agreed between the EU 27 leaders, and modified by the UK parliament and the European Union, could seal the terms of the UK’s ‘divorce’ from the EU. But what does this ‘divorce’ mean for British and EU citizens?
The withdrawal agreement covers all elements of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Citizens’ rights, the financial settlements, the transition period, protocols on the island, Gibraltar and Cyprus, as well as a range of other separation issues.
The withdrawal agreement records the progress in reaching an overall understanding on the framework of the future of the EU and the UK. What needs to be kept in mind, however, is that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.
The citizens’ rights protecting the life choices of more than a million UK nationals in the EU countries, and approximately 3 million EU citizens in the UK, is safeguarding their rights to stay wherever they wish within the EU. This right, by the exit of the UK from the EU, is clearly and fully affected and, for this reason, a transition period is needed, and it is very important for this to be imposed in order for citizens to safeguard their rights of free movement and to establish their working relationships with their employers.
The transition period means that the EU will treat the UK as if it were a member state. The transition period is crucial because it will help citizens and businesses to adapt to the withdrawal conditions.
Of course, questions that arise in respect of the sovereign-based areas will, in this case, also be applicable in Cyprus, since there are Cypriots also who are living and working in the sovereign-based areas for various purposes.
Let us, however, be a bit more practical and see how Brexit, in line with the withdrawal agreement, will affect the life of UK citizens who are living and/or working in the territory of Cyprus.
It is impossible for the purpose of this article to comment on all the parameters of the withdrawal agreement and, for that reason, I will focus only on a few issues that in my opinion are causing concern to the UK citizens at this point in time.
Residing in Cyprus for a few months
This category of people includes those who are not officially resident in Cyprus but spend a significant amount of time in Cyprus, for example for holidaying purposes.
According to the withdrawal agreement, you can only remain in Cyprus for a maximum period of 90 consecutive days per visit. If you intend to spend more than that period, then you should apply for an MEU1, or if you going to stay long-term, then you need to apply for a residence permit if you wish to stay in the territory of Cyprus indefinitely, since a UK citizen will be considered as a non-EU citizen.
UK driving licences need to be converted into Cypriot driving licences. This means that you need to hand over your British driving licence. The good thing about this is that a Cypriot driving licence allows you to drive in all countries within the EU. This could, however, cause problems when renting a car in the UK, as the UK has its own rules and the car hire companies in the UK do not always recognise the Cypriot driving licence of Cyprus as a legitimate one, as it does not indicate how long someone has been driving and the amount of driving experience a driver has accumulated.
An alternative option, however, instead of handing over your British licence, is to apply for an international driving licence, in order to avoid giving up your British licence. This is an option which does not have any specific prohibition in the withdrawal agreement.
It is fundamental, since the UK is not a member of the EU, that a pensioner living in Cyprus has to provide sufficient and clear evidence that during his stay in Cyprus he will not become a burden on the State. Thus, the requirement that someone applying for permanent residence in Cyprus must show sufficient funds in order to be able to receive the MEU1 or the permanent residence.
A positive aspect, however, is that if you hold any funds abroad, including in the UK, and if you show evidence of those funds, then you do not need to transfer the funds to Cyprus. A statement of account showing that you have funds in a UK bank account, for example, will be more than sufficient. Thus, under the circumstances, you will not be required to move your pension contributions to Cyprus.
These will remain valid and pet owners using UK-issued pet passports will not be affected. Of course, there are some conditions which need to be complied with, as laid out in the Balai directive which governs the process and the requirements.
Importing Cars from the UK
The whole procedure will change as the UK will be considered a party of the Non-EU. As the system works at present, it is protected under the EU regulations, so any import taxes may apply, but under certain criteria cars can be shipped into Cyprus and you can avoid the import taxes.
With the exit of the UK from the EU, you will need to comply with the regulations as imposed by importing cars from third world countries. The cost of the taxes could vary depending on the type of car and will also be subject to import duties and VAT.
It is important to recognise that the agreement that was announced is not definitive and conclusive. Viewpoints will continue to develop and be modified with the agreement only coming into force when it has been signed by both the UK and the EU. On the signing of the agreement it will be submitted to the UK Parliament and various EU member state legislative bodies for ratification. The certainty of this divorce is that there are not any predetermined or pain-free solutions.
The content of this article intends to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought on each particular case.
Lawyer, Partner and Director of the Paphos Office of the Law Firm, Michael Kyprianou and Co LLC