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No Brexit bashes for British expats in Cyprus

The Britannia bar in Paphos. The popular pub was thinking of doing a Brexit event, but realised there was not enough demand

On Friday Britain will exit the EU at 11pm GMT to a party in Parliament Square in London attended by Brexiteer pioneer Nigel Farage, a lightshow and a count-down clock projected onto Downing Street.

The date, January 31, also coincides perfectly with the end of Dry January, leaving many in the UK planning to attend pub parties and other gatherings to celebrate or mourn the end of Britain’s 47-year membership of the EU bloc.

The response by the around 30,000-strong British expat community in Cyprus, however, appears to be far more muted with no major events planned for Friday.

“The British high commissioner in Nicosia will do two interviews with local TV stations, and these will be released on social media,” a British High Commission spokesman told the Cyprus Mail. “But nothing fancy.”

“Celebrate? It will be more of a wake,” one long-time expat told the Cyprus Mail. “I’ll be at work anyway.”

“We’re not doing anything for it, no,” said the owner of a British pub in Limassol. “To be honest, it’s just not the major conversation at the moment. If you would have asked last year then, yeah, people were more worried. Now I think people are just waiting to see what happens.”

As the Brexit debate and negotiations raged on over the last three years and a half, there were times when the expat community were spooked over the prospect of a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit.

“A while ago we weren’t too sure what might happen, but now a lot has been sorted. I think the worst outcome has been avoided,” said another bar owner.

Riris echoed this sentiment, saying “there is clarity on the implementation of the transition period, residency and healthcare rights.”

“I don’t think many people want to come out,” said Debbie Hall of the Paphos branch of the UK Citizens Association which runs a club for members.

“We have a comedian coming in on Friday, but it’s nothing to do with Brexit day, you have to book him months in advance. He might make a few jokes about it though,” she said.

“It will be a lot more fun back in Britain,” said Neil Hart, the owner of the Britannia Bar in Paphos. “We were thinking about doing an event, but the majority of expats are Remainers so there wasn’t a big call for it.”

More to the point, he said “Remainers are a bit like a football team that’s lost. They’re 3-0 down and you don’t hear from them anymore.”

In Britain many pubs are promising a night of traditional pints and patriotic songs. Others are adopting a more conciliatory tone, with a focus on British pop songs for karaoke events.

“I think it is unwise of the government to rub our noses in it by celebrating our defeat at this hour, whilst talking about unifying the country,” said former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine.

Meanwhile, Wetherspoons is holding a “Let’s Stay Friends” drinks promotion, cutting the prices of ten drinks – many of them from the EU.

“How do you come up with a celebration for a divided country?” ponders Tim Martin, founder of the pub chain.

“It’ll take more than a few drinks in Wetherspoons to unite Remainers and Brexiteers,” he concedes. “But since we selected some drinks of EU origin, at least it’s a gesture.”

For the British expats in Cyprus, however, Britain’s exit from the EU is more reminiscent of its entry into the bloc in 1973.

“Britain passed peacefully into Europe at midnight last night without any special celebrations,” The Guardian reported on January 1, 1973. “It was difficult to tell that anything of importance had occurred.”




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