BHC Nicosia, Open letter to Britons resident in the north of Cyprus

British High Commissioner Stephen Lillie gives a Brexit update for UK nationals living in the northern part of Cyprus.

Published 29 March 2019
British High Commission Nicosia
Ambassador Stephen Lillie

I am writing to update you on latest developments regarding Brexit and how it might affect Britons resident in the north of Cyprus. I know this is a matter of concern for our community there. We’ve been keeping in touch with community representatives but I thought it would be helpful to set out the key points here:

As you will know from the media, the UK Government and the EU have agreed new dates for our exit from the EU. The Government’s wish is to leave the EU on the basis of the Withdrawal Agreement at 11pm on 22 May UK time. However, if the Agreement is not approved and no other arrangements are made, our exit would happen at 11pm on 12 April, UK time.

We will be keeping the community across the island informed of developments but I want to set out now what we anticipate happening if we leave without a deal on 12 April, so that you can prepare. I am sure you will appreciate that anything involving north-south issues in Cyprus is politically sensitive, and that there are some legal grey areas. We have been talking to the authorities in the Republic about this, but it’s difficult to say exactly what will happen in practice in all situations. As High Commissioner, however, my hope is that we can work with the authorities to minimise the disruption to the lives of Britons in Cyprus, wherever you are resident.

Although Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, EU law is suspended north of the Green Line, because of the continuing division of the Island. So the local residency rules and procedures for Britons in the north should remain the same there before and after Brexit. This is in contrast to the situation for Britons living south of the Green Line, because the Republic has different residency rules for EU and non-EU nationals.

In a No Deal Brexit, Britons should still be able to cross the Green Line. The EU’s Green Line Regulation allows non-EU nationals to cross the line provided they have a valid travel document and, if required, a valid visa for the Republic. We’re not anticipating British nationals needing a visa to visit Cyprus, so that means you should be able to cross with a valid British passport. Please note, however, that as non-EU nationals, Britons will no longer have an automatic right to work in the Republic.

Another practical issue in this respect concerns driving licences. At present we are still discussing arrangements for recognition of driving licences with the Republic authorities. Our advice for now is that visitors to the Republic wishing to drive with a UK licence should consider applying also for an international driving permit.

The other important change that could follow in the case of a No Deal Brexit is the imposition of immigration controls on British nationals at Larnaca and Paphos airports. The current practice in the Republic is for non-EU nationals who do not require a visa – for example Americans or Australians – to be admitted for 90 days, and for passports to be stamped accordingly. The Republic of Cyprus authorities may count time spent in the north of Cyprus towards the 90 day visa free total. If this happens, you would need to exit from the Republic again through Larnaca or Paphos within 90 days or potentially face difficulties at the airport on exit or re-entry. We recognise that this could cause inconvenience for the community, and we are exploring with the authorities of the Republic how we can manage this. We will keep you updated. On a related note, you will already be aware of the issues around using Ercan airport, and the complications this can cause with the Republic authorities. This is expected to remain the case after Brexit.

As I have said, the situation explained above is intended to help you prepare in case of a No Deal Brexit on 12 April. The UK Government’s wish is still to agree the Withdrawal Agreement. If implemented, the Withdrawal Agreement provides for a substantial implementation period until the end of 2020, during which Britons would continue to be treated on the same basis as EU nationals in the Republic. This will allow more time to try and resolve issues that could affect Britons in the north after the end of the implementation period.

I very much appreciate the concerns of our community about the future. We will continue to update you via our website, on our social media channels and by keeping in touch with community groups. Please also follow our Travel Advice page and Living in Cyprus Guide which will be updated in due course.

Stephen Lillie, CMG
British High Commissioner