The government is on the ball regarding what actions would need to be taken in the event of the UK leaving the European Union, following the June 23 ‘Brexit’ referendum, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on Wednesday.
“The matter of the British referendum is being assiduously studied and monitored, and immediate actions have been taken by the competent directorates of the foreign ministry and the High Commission of the Republic in London, dating back to the announcement of the referendum,” according to a written statement by Kasoulides.
The minister was responding to queries by main opposition AKEL as to what the government intends to do after the British people voted to leave the EU.
Kasoulides went on to list the actions taken to date. On July 13, the foreign ministry’s permanent secretary held a working meeting with the Office of the Law Commissioner, the permanent secretaries of the other ministries, and a representative of the Legal Services [Attorney-general’s office].
During that meeting it was agreed that each ministry appoint a contact point in order to better coordinate possible actions to deal with the consequences of Brexit.
Kasoulides additionally submitted to the cabinet a proposal for the formal establishment of an inter-ministerial coordination team, to be led by the head of the foreign ministry’s European Union Division. Under the same proposal, the cabinet approved on July 27 the establishment of a ministerial committee – to be chaired by the foreign minister – which will “supervise and provide political guidance to the inter-ministerial coordination team.”
Kasoulides said he has meanwhile written to counterparts in EU member states that are expected to experience consequences similar to Cyprus, such as Ireland and Malta, asking for joint monitoring of the issue and for coordinating their actions both within the EU and on a bilateral level.
In this context, the minister said, he met with his Irish counterpart on the sidelines of the EU Foreign Affairs Council held in July. He also planned to meet with the foreign minister of Malta in the near future.
Earlier, on June 14, the foreign ministry, in collaboration with the Geostrategic Council, held a meeting with representatives of organisations of the private and semi-public sectors, as well as with representatives of each ministry. At that meeting the participants noted the potential impact of a Brexit across the spectrum of Cyprus-UK relations.
Following the Brexit referendum, an internal consultation was held at the foreign ministry on June 30, where an ‘action team’ was appointed. The team was tasked with coordinating the positions of Cyprus, both in relation to the EU’s stance in negotiating its future relationship with the UK, as well as to provide guidance as to mitigating the impact on Cyprus from a possible Brexit.
For the UK to leave the EU it has to invoke an agreement called Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which gives the two sides two years to agree the terms of the split.
New British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will not kick off this process before the end of 2016.
Once Article 50 has been triggered, the UK will have two years to negotiate its withdrawal. But other officials have suggested it could take up to six years for the UK to complete exit negotiations. The terms of Britain’s exit will have to be agreed by 27 national parliaments, a process which could take some years.