By Stephen Lillie, British High Commissioner
Thank you once again for the questions received around Brexit. We received lots of questions this week covering similar issues so rather than replying to each one individually we are providing advice on the different themes covered.
Before I do so, I want to repeat a point that I made in a speech on Brexit last week in Nicosia. Speaking at the English School Old Boys and Girls Association, I expressed confidence about the progress we are making in our negotiations with the EU. Ninety-five per cent of the deal to secure our withdrawal from the EU (known as the Withdrawal Agreement) is already agreed. This includes the deal on Citizens’ Rights, on the financial settlement with the EU and on the Implementation Period: the period between March 30, 2019 and December 31, 2020 which will allow the UK and EU time to prepare our new partnership.
The prime minister has secured broad agreement on the structure and scope of the future relationship. Despite all the speculation about the possibility of a ‘No Deal Brexit’, the finishing line is in sight, and a deal is not far from being struck. This will give you all more clarity on the future.
Over the last three weeks, we have covered residency issues but I appreciate that there is still some uncertainty. So this week we are providing a little overview of the Ministry of Interior’s Residence Rights policy for those people that are still unsure.
Some of you wrote in with very detailed questions about the application process for residency rights. Those questions are tricky for us to answer as we do not own the process.
We have passed them onto the Civil Registry and Migration Department who we hope will be able to provide more clarity through their website. We also answer some questions on the future relationship with the EU, which we received both last week and this week.
Securing your residency before December 31, 2020
As the residence guide from the Civil Registry and Migration Department of the Ministry of Interior states: the EU has reached an agreement with the UK on Citizens’ Rights, ahead of the UK leaving the EU on March 29, 2019. This agreement will become legally binding once it is set in force.
Under the agreement, UK nationals who are eligible for residence rights along with their family members, will be able to stay and continue their lives in Cyprus. In order to be covered by this legally binding agreement and to ensure that you can enjoy the same rights as you do now as an EU national living in Cyprus, you will need to be registered with either an MEU1 (registration card) or if you are eligible an MEU3 (permanent residence).
If you have any other form of residency (including an old stamp in your passport) this should be changed to either of the above by the end of the implementation period of December 2020. Otherwise you risk not enjoying the same level of rights as you do now.
New Residency Document from January 1, 2021
After the end of the Transition Period, i.e. from January 1, 2021, holders of residence documents (MEU1 or, if eligible MEU3) will have the right to receive a new type of residence document issued by the Cypriot authorities. This new document will include a statement that it has been issued in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement and protects your rights as citizens – even after we have left the EU. The Cypriot authorities have also confirmed that holding an existing residence document such as a MEU1 or MEU3 also means the process for applying for a new residency permit, from January 2021, will be more straightforward.
This week, we also received questions about the future relationship with the EU, particularly on travelling in and out of Cyprus and other EU countries post-Brexit. Future mobility arrangements between the UK and EU have yet to be agreed but Britain has made it clear, through the Government’s Brexit White Paper : that we expect to have straightforward arrangements for tourists, business visitors and students, and we very much hope European countries will reciprocate.
If you are a resident of Cyprus, we believe you may need to carry your residency permit with you, along with your passport, when you leave or enter Cyprus, to smooth your passage through immigration controls. So all the more reason to make sure your residency papers are in order.
We have also been asked about how many days UK nationals will be allowed to stay in Cyprus if you have a holiday home or are just here for a visit.
During the Transition Period (March 30, 2019 until December 31, 2020), UK nationals will be able to visit Cyprus and other EU countries broadly under the same rules as they do now. We hope this continues after 2020 so UK nationals will be able to continue to visit Cyprus and other EU states for a maximum of ninety days as is currently the case. But this will be subject to further negotiations between the UK and EU.
We also received some questions on the payment of pensions and how that would operate in the future. The Citizens’ Rights agreement allows for the current framework of EU rules and regulations to apply during the Transition Period and this includes social security coordination rules and the right to an uprated state pension. This means that many of you who have worked in Cyprus and paid social insurance here can continue to claim your full pension including any UK element from one location.
Customs, Duties and Taxes
Another specific question we received related to whether people in Cyprus will have to start to pay duty on goods bought from Amazon UK but not, for example, Amazon Germany. There will be no change during the Transition Period to December 31, 2020. And the government’s ambition is to ensure free trade in goods between Britain and Europe from 2021, so again that would mean no change.
But of course this is still subject to negotiation. HMRC’s recently published Brexit Partnership Pack helps explain potential changes to customs, duties and VAT in the unlikely event of a “No Deal.” A few of you wrote in with very specific tax enquiries and questions relating to your tax residency. We cannot give individual tax advice and would always recommend that you seek the advice of a tax professional either in Cyprus or the UK.
First Outreach Event: November 7
Next week, we are on the road as we begin our series of outreach events starting in Larnaca on November 7. If you are interested in attending, the meeting will be at Oroklini municipality at 10am. There is no need to register beforehand. If you are unable to attend we will be summarising the key topics discussed and providing any further clarity to questions we receive either at the event or through emails sent to the Cyprus Mail ([email protected])