Boris Johnson’s tactics add to uncertainty for expats

6 mins read


BORIS Johnson, the UK’s new prime minister, has vowed to take his country out of the European Union on October 31, “do or die … no ifs or buts”.

October 31 is the date of Halloween, when children go out trick or treating. Mr Johnson sees Brexit as a treat for Britain but to achieve it by his target date he will have to perform one of two very difficult tricks.

He must either:

*Persuade the EU to reopen negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement and offer him a better deal than it offered Theresa May, one that does not include a backstop to guarantee free movement of goods across the Irish border;


*Persuade his parliament to let him pull out the UK without a deal of any sort.

It seems unlikely that the EU will offer any substantial change in the Withdrawal Agreement, and certainly not by October 31. So, Mr Johnson appears to have boxed himself in by pledging so strongly that he will meet that deadline.

The deal Mrs May tried, time and again, to get through parliament offered a 14-month transition period during which the UK would begin negotiating its future relationship with the EU.

For, as Mr Johnson’s hero Winston Churchill might have told him, the Withdrawal Agreement is “is not the end … it is not even the beginning of the end”.

The transitional period was intended to allow both sides to work for a happy ending. Without it, Britain really will crash out and the consequences could be very serious for all involved, particularly the UK.

It is hard to see how Mr Johnson can organise even the basic technicalities of Brexit by October 31 and difficult to imagine his parliament allowing such an abrupt and total withdrawal in any case.

His majority in the House of Commons is now on a knife edge after it was cut to just one as the Conservatives were beaten by the Liberal Democrats in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.

And there are plenty of rebels within his own Conservative Party who would quite willing to vote against him on this.

Since that circle can’t be squared, many observers in Britain have concluded that Mr Johnson is not really serious about trying to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement.

His plan, they believe, is to make the EU an offer it must refuse and then call a general election which he will fight on a ‘blame Brussels’ platform.

This is a dangerous tactic. Mrs May’s move for an early general election backfired on her; the inconclusive result in 2017 damned the rest of her brief premiership.

But Mr Johnson has reason to hope for a better result. Labour, the main opposition party, is a shambles: divided on Brexit, haunted by accusations of anti-Semitism and led by a man who has always looked out of his depth and now appears to be drowning.

So an autumn election does now seem more probable than possible.

That is not good news for British expats, in Cyprus or anywhere else. Uncertainty is what they dread most.

The European Commission has published 98 ‘preparedness notices’ and 46 legislative measures to be to be enforced in the event of an abrupt EU exit.

You can find them on the Commission website and if you do business with Britain you should take a look. You don’t have to read them all, just check out the ones that apply to you.

The Commission’s programme includes measures in the financial sector, transport and travel, customs and the export of goods, agriculture and fisheries, social security coordination and services.

The new measures will, for example, facilitate road haulage, rail and aviation continuity between the UK and the EU27.

The Commission has not legislated for residence rights (which are subject to national laws) but has asked member states to take a “generous approach” to the rights of UK nationals already living in their territories, as long as the UK does likewise.

Cyprus is one of several member states that have offered permanent national ‘regularisation’ for UK citizens already living in the country.

There has been a good deal of inter-government and corporate planning but individuals – the self-employed and pensioners, for example – must make their own preparations.

They can take precautions: to hedge against currency fluctuation, to safeguard their pensions, to protect investments. But the first they should take is sound advice.

Do not make assumptions. If you have pensions or investments which you fear might in any way be impacted by Brexit, get them checked out.

My company, the Woodbrook Group is an international firm of financial advisers. Our team of experienced financial consultants can help you with solutions and services tailored to your unique situation.

The clock is ticking. Whether towards Brexit or a UK general election is unclear. But either way you need to be prepared.