Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs following deliberations with the EU’s Chief Negotiator on Brexit, Mr Michel Barnier

It is a great pleasure to welcome today at the Foreign Ministry the European Union’s Chief Negotiator for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, my good friend Michel Barnier.

Even though we maintain regular contact in the context of our collective effort to manage Brexit and its impact on the EU and its Member States in the best possible way, I am particularly pleased that Michel is visiting Nicosia in order to hold an in-depth exchange of views with us on Brexit and other related issues on the EU’s agenda.

I wish to use this opportunity to re-iterate our sincere appreciation, to Michel and his entire team, for their excellent work in negotiating and agreeing with the UK Government the Withdrawal Agreement. We remain convinced that the Agreement provides the best and only way to ensure a smooth and orderly Brexit with the least adverse consequences for all. 

Let me also note that we are particularly thankful for the close and constructive cooperation we have had with him and the Commission throughout the negotiations on the Protocol dedicated to the British Bases in Cyprus. This collaborative process culminated in the incorporation of the relevant Protocol into the Withdrawal Agreement.

During today’s meeting we had a broad and constructive exchange of views on a number of issues relating to Brexit and the EU’s state of preparedness, focusing on issues of particular relevance and importance to Cyprus. We discussed the latest developments on Brexit, and the next steps following the decision of the April European Council extending the Article 50 deadline for the UK’s exit until 31st October, so as to give additional time to the UK to decide how it wishes to proceed, with a view to ensuring a smooth and orderly withdrawal. This decision was vital under the circumstances, providing much needed space and certainty for our citizens and for our businesses.

The EU and the 27 member states have done everything within their power to facilitate the best possible outcome for all, under the circumstances. It is totally up to London to proceed with taking the necessary decisions so that we may be able to effect the UK’s withdrawal as soon as possible. Whilst we sincerely hope that a breakthrough will be achieved in London that will lead to the ratification by the UK Parliament of the Withdrawal Agreement, we have prepared for all scenarios, in order to ensure that the impact on the daily lives of our citizens and on our economies will be minimized, irrespective of the time and the way in which Brexit will eventually occur.

We also exchanged views and compared notes on a number of other important issues currently on the European Agenda, especially in view of the upcoming elections for the European Parliament, the outcome of which - we both agree – will have an impact on how Europe’s future takes shape over the coming years.  

On my part, I also had the opportunity to brief Michel in detail on Turkey’s escalated illegal activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of Cyprus in violation of the Republic’s sovereign rights, and contrary to international and EU law. Turkey’s actions, which are de-stabilising in the Eastern Mediterranean region, have drawn broad condemnation from the international community. Michel is well aware of the discussions we have been having with our partners in Brussels, who promptly expressed their support and solidarity with the Republic of Cyprus, on the need for the EU to react collectively and decisively to this flagrant violation of a Member State’s sovereign rights.  

I would like to thank you warmly once again, dear Michel; I look forward to continuing our fruitful exchange over lunch.