Cyprus steps up emergency planning for no-deal Brexit

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-16 01:20:26|Editor: yan
Video PlayerClose

NICOSIA, March 15 (Xinhua) -- Cyprus, one of the countries expected to be the most affected by an uncontrolled exit of Britain from EU, has made emergency arrangements in view of the uncertainty over the Brexit course, officials said here on Friday.

The measures, they said, are being taken because decisions by the British Parliament do not provide a stable ground to predict future developments.

The latest decision by the British Parliament on Thursday night was to ask the EU for a short delay to allow lawmakers to attempt to agree on a Brexit deal by March 20 -- or for a longer delay if no deal can be agreed in time.

Cyprus Foreign Ministry spokesman Demetris Samuel told state radio that the ministry has taken all actions needed to make sure that, in case of a no-deal Brexit, people living or working in the British Sovereign Base areas will not be affected.

"The status of those living and working inside the base areas, either Greek Cypriots or citizens of other EU countries, will remain unchanged," he said.

About 11,000 people live or work in the 254-square-kilometer territory, which is technically considered to be British soil.

An estimated 80,000 people having either British citizenship or dual British-Cypriot citizenship live in Cyprus, but their current situation is not expected to change significantly in case of a hard Brexit.

Samuel said that several thousand Cypriot students of British universities will also be unaffected at least until 2020, when the Brexit transition period will come to an end.

As EU citizens, they currently enjoy low tuition fees and low-cost student loans, but they will be considered third-country citizens after 2020, meaning they will lose their current benefits.

The chairman of the Cyrus Parliament's education committee, Kyriakos Hadjiyiannis, said his committee has been working non-stop for several days to prepare emergency legislation, which will make it possible to continue applying franchise agreements under which Cypriot universities can issue diplomas and certificates to several thousand local and foreign students.

He added that there are plans to discuss and approve this legislation at an emergency session of parliament in case of a hard Brexit.

However, uncertainty over the Brexit course has already affected the enrolment of students in universities that have franchise deals with British universities.

As an indication of the extent enrolment has been affected, the rector of the University of Cyprus said the number of medical school students has dropped by 20 percent.

But even more serious problems are expected in case of a no-deal Brexit, as trade between Cyprus and Britain will be made more expensive by added import taxes and money and time-consuming customs procedures.

Savvas Perdios, Cyprus' deputy minister for tourism, said that his department is bracing for a marked drop this year in tourist arrivals from Britain, the main tourist source of Cyprus, should the departure of Britain from EU cause a further drop in the value of the British pound against the euro.

"We are working to offset any negative developments in Britain by making sure that the Russian tourist market stays at least at the level of last year," Perdios said.