On the 23rd of June 2016, a historical day for the UK and Europe, a referendum held in regards to the continued membership of the UK in the EU resulted in a majority vote to leave the EU. Although the referendum is not legally binding it is widely expected that the UK will leave the EU. The first step of the process involves the UK government invoking Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. Some commentators argue that there should be a second referendum done or that the Scottish Parliament might veto the UK leaving the EU. Some even argue that the UK parliament might not vote the bill to allow the UK to leave the EU. These scenarios may seem farfetched but we cannot completely exclude these possibilities. Nonetheless, the general consensus is that the UK will indeed leave the EU.
British expats living in Cyprus are wondering what would be the consequences of the UK leaving the EU which would affect their lives here. The short answer is that we simply do not know. We can merely speculate. After the UK invokes Article 50 there will be a period of 2 years during which the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU will be negotiated. Most British expats who live in Cyprus will not be hugely affected until the UK actually leaves the EU after 2 years or longer. However, there are already strong signs that the UK’s economy is already being affected by the result of the referendum. Several real estate deals in the UK did not go through because of the political and financial uncertainty and the pound sterling keeps falling. A possible recession in the UK will inevitably have consequences on the financial standing of many of the expats living in Cyprus and their standard of living here.
But what most expats are concerned about is whether they will be able to continue living and working here without any restrictions, having access to healthcare and owning property without any complications. It all really depends on the outcome of the UK’s negotiations with the EU but also on any potential future agreements between Cyprus and the UK. Before Cyprus joined the EU life for expats here was more complicated. To work here British citizens needed a work permit and they had to keep renewing their temporary residence permit for a number of years. Moreover, to own property in Cyprus they needed the permission of the Council of Ministers and they could only own one property.
Cyprus and the UK historically have close political and financial ties. The UK is still one of our biggest sources of tourists, Cyprus sends thousands of students every year to British Universities and many Britons buy houses here. Both countries will want to maintain this close relationship. Nonetheless, it is very likely that life for expats here will become more complicated.