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Christos Karaolis: 300% Increase in UK Applications for Cypriot Citizenship

Christos Karaolis: 300% Increase in UK Applications for Cypriot Citizenship

The applications of Cypriot expatriates in the UK for the acquisition of a Cypriot passport have shown an increase up to 300% following the UK’s decision to leave the EU, says Christos Karaolis, President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK. In an interview to InBusinessNews, he talks about how the Brexit decision has affected the trade and prices of Cypriot products in the UK and the possible future reduction in the number of Cypriot students in the country.


One year after Britain’s decision to leave the EU, what do you think will be the consequences/changes in the lives of expatriates?

Although a large proportion of the UK Cypriot diaspora voted to remain within the EU and the National Federation of Cypriots UK campaigned to remain in the EU, our diaspora recognises the need to honour the decision of the electorate. Whilst our diaspora has been impact in similar ways to the rest of UK (e.g. uncertainty around jobs, incomes and investments), given the close links of the diaspora with Cyprus, there have been some specific areas of impact. UK importers of Cypriot goods (~10% of Cypriot exports), have seen prices rise, a cost that is already being passed onto the end customer. In addition, there has also been a significant increase in demand from the diaspora to citizenship of the Republic of Cyprus, to ensure that they continue to enjoy EU rights & freedoms after Brexit.


Have Cyprus’ exports been affected in Britain? Do you believe they will be affected negatively over the next few years?

Whilst the quantity of imports have not been impacted, as the UK is still in the EU, given the low exchange rates, prices have risen. In fact, a Cypriot importer told me that his costs have increased ~8% since the referendum given the exchange rate. Ultimately the extent to which Cypriot imports into the UK will be impacted, will depend on the level of free trade that is negotiated in the final deal. By contrast, despite the unfavourable exchange rate, financial services activity and tourism from the UK has not been impacted.


How much have applications for a Cypriot passport from the Cyprus Agency in London increased?

Anecdotally I have heard that applications for citizenship of the Republic of Cyprus have increased by 200-300%. Given the diaspora’s strong vote to remain with the EU, it is no surprise that the community is now seeking to retain its EU freedoms by applying for Cypriot citizenship.


Do you see any changes regarding the registrations of Cypriot students in Britain?

The impact so far has only been minimal as applications from EU students to UK universities fell by 5% this year, given some of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Whilst the UK Government has now confirmed that EU students starting in 2017/18 and 2018/19 will pay the same fees as UK students, it is likely that when Cypriot students are required to pay international fees (2-4 times higher than UK fees) there may be an impact on numbers.


How do you view the future of Cyprus – UK relations?

The UK and Cyprus had historic and commonwealth ties before Cyprus entered the EU in 2004. We are continuing to lobby our Government in the UK to ensure that these ties remain strong after the UK leaves the EU.


What is your opinion on the improvement of the Cypriot economy? What are the risks and challenges?

Although austerity and reforms was a challenge for Cyprus and its people, the economic turnaround has shown results. Exiting the bail-out programme after 3 years and returning to economic growth is a fantastic achievement. Indeed Brexit potentially poses a further opportunity for Cyprus to attract UK businesses that will be looking for an EU-base, especially in the financial services sector. However, there still some headwinds that need to be monitored carefully. Although falling, the level of Non-Performing Loans, currently at ~€23B, remains high and these loans need to be properly managed to ensure the continued viability of Cypriot banks. In addition, the loss of the UK from EU committees, in particular EcoFin where the UK and Cyprus were natural allies given the similar economic structures of the two countries, may make it more challenging for Cyprus to ensure future EU regulations do not adversely impact the Cypriot economy.


Are you aware whether British or Cypriot expatriates may have an interest to invest in Cyprus?

There is indeed a significant interest in investment from the UK into Cyprus. There are a number of trade events and dedicated Cyprus investment events that happen throughout the year in the UK. These events have the active participation of high-profile Cypriot Ministers e.g. Haris Georgiades, Georgios Lakkotrypis and are in partnership with prominent UK organisations e.g. COBCOE and companies e.g. PwC. Such events are a great source of promoting Cyprus as a destination for investment and have proven very effective.


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