Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

Should we stay or should we go?

On June 23, Britain will hold its most important poll in a generation when it votes whether to stay in or leave the European Union.

The implications are huge and none know that more than the British expats living in Cyprus. The British government has urged all those who have lived here fewer than 15 years to register to vote, and the referendum has become the major topic of conversation when expats get together.

In many ways the choice facing the expat community is more complex than for their compatriots back home. Like them, voters here have to decide whether they agree with British Prime Minister David Cameron’s assessment that a Brexit will be ‘a leap in the dark’ that should be avoided at all costs or with the ‘out’ campaigners who insist Britain will be stronger, richer and more independent outside the EU.

Bur British expats living in Cyprus must also consider how their lives here will be affected if Britain leaves. As EU residents living in another EU country, British expats have a slew of rights including property ownership, pensions, work and access to healthcare. Whether those rights would remain if Britain leaves the EU is the most important issue for the expat community. But will fears that at least some of those rights could be affected make them vote differently from the way they would if they lived back home? Do they feel they have to make a ‘head or heart’ decision?

The Sunday Mail visited the UKCA – United Kingdom Citizens Association – in Paphos to find out.

Debbie Bell, 55, the current UKCA chairman, has been living in Cyprus for the last 11 years.

She said that, along with her husband and son, she will vote for Britain to stay an EU member as the country has ‘too much to lose’ if it leaves.

“A lot of people in Cyprus live on their pensions and that affects businesses here, including us. I think a lot might go back to the UK if there is a Brexit. People are talking about it at the club all the time, they are very concerned.”

She said that she would vote the same way if she lived in the UK and believes most UKCA members will vote the same way she will.

However, Liz Gorman, 72, who has lived in Cyprus for 12 years, is one who won’t. The retiree said that she will vote for a Brexit.

“I don’t think a Brexit will have much effect on our lives in Cyprus, people are worried about the health service here, but we have a reciprocal arrangement with the UK, it won’t make any difference at all,” she said.

This allows her to focus on other issues specific to Britain such as the fishing industry, agriculture and immigration, all concerns which are pushing her to vote for a Brexit.

“A lot of people are trying to get in Britain because of all of the benefits they can get and I think that’s appalling. I don’t like the way Britain seems to welcome everybody onto the UK,” she said.

Patti Sherratt, journalist
Patti Sherratt, journalist

Club member Patti Sherratt, 69, is a freelance journalist who first came to Cyprus in the 1970s and lived in Kenya and Hong Kong before moving to Paphos almost eight years ago. She is passionate about the referendum, believing that everyone who is eligible should register to vote.

“I was formally a borough and town councillor, so I’m political, and it’s important to vote. I will vote to stay in. I don’t see the point of a Brexit, it’s like throwing a whole lot of balls up in the air. Britain can only be great if it stays within Europe, it’s too small to be on its own. It has no empire, its commonwealth links are very weak and it can only have a world voice now, if it is within a larger block of nations.”

She shares Cameron’s ‘leap in the dark’ view and unlike Gorman sees an impact on expats’ lives in Cyprus.

“I think it’s true, we risk having our pensions frozen and not being able to access local health care. If you’re claiming child benefit you won’t be able to get that either. It is all up in the air,” she said.

Sherratt said that she would still vote the same way if she lived in the UK.

“I see what would happen to Britain and I think the consequences could be dire.”

UKCA treasurer Dennis Wheatley has lived in Armou with his wife for the last 15 years. The 81-year-old

Dennis Wheatley, UKCA, treasurer
Dennis Wheatley, UKCA, treasurer

said that until now politics had not concerned him, but if he believes a Brexit would affect his life in Cyprus, he will register and vote to stay in.

“Even the experts don’t seem to have any idea which way it could go,” he said.

Retiree Denis Woolmark, 62, has been living in Cyprus for just under a year and will vote in favour of a Brexit.

“I was opposed to joining the common market in 1972. We never voted for Brussels controlling us, Brussels has too much power. European law overrides British law and that’s wrong. We vote for our own government and they are the ones which pass the laws.”

Woolmark said he was confident that British expats living in Cyprus and other European countries will still be able to live freely after a Brexit.

“Any new rules after a Brexit would come into force only for new residents trying to live in EU countries.”

He said that a Brexit won’t have much of an impact on his life, and doesn’t share concerns about a possible loss of healthcare options because he has private coverage.

Rhoda Trohear and Albert Boswell
Rhoda Trohear and Albert Boswell

“People say we wouldn’t be able to use the E111 form to access health care here, but I have private health care and everyone should have this anyway and make sure that they’re fully covered,” he said.
Rhoda Trohear, 80, and Albert Boswell, 84, from Tala also believe Britain should never have joined the European Union.

“If we can’t look after ourselves independently, we’re not the nation we thought we are,” said Boswell.
Trohear added: “I think we should come out of Europe. Britain has always looked after itself and being in Europe costs a lot of money.”

To register to vote in the referendum, go to www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Related Posts

Candidates sending texts to voters on polling day

Andria Kades

No heating, electricity cut: voting mishaps

Jean Christou

More turn out to vote than in 2018 (Update 2)

Nick Theodoulou

Police out in force

Staff Reporter

Vote, vote, vote say candidates and leaders

Nick Theodoulou

Is corruption embedded in our DNA?

Nick Theodoulou

19 comments

Comments are closed.