First of all let me introduce myself as the new British High Commissioner to Cyprus. I feel immensely honoured to have been appointed to this role, which I began on 30 April. A very important element of my job and of the British High Commission’s work in Cyprus is engagement with the British communities around the island. I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible.
I know that the implications of Brexit are a matter of particular interest and concern to Britons in Cyprus. My predecessor Matthew Kidd travelled around the island meeting many of you. We will be holding more of these open meetings after the summer. Ahead of that, I thought it would be helpful to provide a written update, including on some of the top issues of concern at previous open meetings.
What has happened in the negotiations between the EU and the UK?
In December last year the UK and the European Commission reached a comprehensive agreement on reciprocal protection of UK and Union citizens’ rights. In March this year, the Commission and the UK announced that the commitments made in December had been translated into legal text. We also agreed the terms of a time-limited implementation period until 31 December 2020 which will give you more time to make any preparations. This marks an important step towards finalising the full Withdrawal Agreement.
What does that mean in practice?
The agreement means that UK nationals living in Cyprus will be able to carry on living, working or studying in Cyprus for as long as you want to. Your rights to remain in Cyprus will be protected now, during the implementation period and beyond. You will continue to be able to access social security on the same basis as Cypriot citizens living in Cyprus. You will be entitled to have your social security contributions made before and after exit in the UK, or in another member state, count towards a future UK or EU member state pension. Your children will continue to enjoy access to education on the same basis that Cypriot children do.
What is still to be agreed?
We have secured the right for you to continue living your life in Cyprus as you do now. But we would also like to discuss with the EU27 future life choices. These include the right to onward free movement should you wish to move to another EU member state; provisions for posted workers; and mutual recognition of qualifications.
Arrangements for travel between the UK and EU beyond 2020 are also being discussed during the second phase of the negotiations.
But we already know that up to 31 December 2020 you and your EU family members will continue to be able to travel to the UK as you do now. In some cases where you have resided in an EU member state for at least three months, your non-EU family members may also travel with you to the UK.
Some UK nationals have raised concerns about what happens if an overall deal between the EU and the UK is not reached. I should emphasise that we do not want or expect a no deal outcome. The UK Government and the Commission have both stated that providing certainty for citizens is a priority. We believe it would be very unlikely for any agreed deal on citizens’ rights to be reopened.
What preparations should you make for the future?
The British Government has been clear that we will leave the European Union in March 2019 and that there will be a time-limited implementation period until 31 December 2020. We have agreed with the Commission that you will have a further 6 months after that period (i.e. until 30 June 2021) to make any necessary preparations according to what is required in the final Withdrawal Agreement.
If you have not done so already, I would strongly urge you to register as a resident with the Cypriot authorities. All UK nationals who have been residing in Cyprus for more than 90 days and wish to continue to live here should legalise their status by registering. Further information on how to do this can be found here.
We will continue to work closely with the Cypriot government to ensure information is provided to UK nationals in a timely manner on any new administrative procedures that may be implemented for British nationals post-Brexit.
As a High Commission we are often asked about three areas of specific concern to British residents.
What if I/my family decide to move back to the UK?
If you wish to move back to the UK, you and your family members (both EU citizens and in some cases non-EU citizens) will be able to do so until 31 December 2020. After that date, the UK Immigration Rules will apply where a family member is not a UK national. The Government will be setting out initial proposals for our future immigration arrangements in due course. The UK’s departure from the EU does not change nationality law and therefore the processes for registering children and applying for British passports remain the same. UK nationals are able to travel or return to the UK at any time, including after 31 December 2020.
Will I have to pay tax in two countries?
The UK’s exit from the European Union will not change existing double taxation arrangements. Double taxation agreements ensure that any individual (not just a British citizen) who is living in a country which has a treaty with the UK will not pay tax in two countries on the same income/gain and determines which country has primary taxing rights. The UK has a double taxation agreement with all EU Member States, which will continue to apply on withdrawal. You will have read that a new Double Taxation Agreement was signed by the UK and Cyprus recently and more information on this can be found on the Cyprus tax treaties page
Will driving licences still be valid after exit day?
The validity of UK driving licences in the EU and other Member States’ licences in the UK forms part of the negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship. As such we cannot answer this yet. We will let you know when we have more information.
Where can you find out more?
The UK Government website has a range of documents that concern the UK’s departure from the EU, including a section on what you need to know as a British citizen living in the EU.
The online ‘Do I Need a Visa’ tool will be useful for those who are thinking of going on holiday to the UK with family members who are not British or EU citizens.
For those thinking about returning to the UK with family members who are not themselves British or EU citizens, the following guidance may be useful.
If you are unsure if your family member is a British Citizen, more information can be found here.
You can also find out more information about processes while in Cyprus including applying for a British passport or naturalisation here.
Our contact with UK nationals has shown that some of you are not sure what your entitlements and obligations are as EU citizens living in another member state. It is impossible to put in writing detailed information that would reflect all of your individual circumstances and situations. I would, however, encourage you to use the resources of the European Union’s website, which has a whole range of easy-to-follow explanations of how pensions, social security payments, driving licences, education and a whole range of other topics in the EU work.
The “Your Europe” website is available in all community languages. Among other things it includes information on how state pensions are calculated, particularly where you have been making contributions in more than one member state, for example both in the UK and in Cyprus. HM Revenue and Customs also have an online portal that allows you to check your National Insurance record.
And the UK Government’s International Pension Centre provides more information on pension entitlements while overseas.
Finally, as more information is released, we will update you through our social media channels on Facebook and Twitter.I would also recommend that you subscribe to Brexit e-mail alerts which will be the quickest way to get up-to-date information.
I hope this is useful. I look forward to discussing these and many other issues with you at forthcoming “road-show” meetings which we will be organising.
Stephen Lillie, High Commissioner