Brexit

British Forces Cyprus: What Changes Should Personnel Expect After Brexit?

General Patrick Sanders expects "inconveniences and frictions" post-Brexit and admitted the way personnel receive parcels will change.

British Forces Cyprus is taking "prudent precautions" as the UK prepares to leave the European Union (EU).

General Patrick Sanders, the officer in charge of Joint Forces Command, spoke to Forces News during a visit to Cyprus to check on no-deal preparations. 

Gen Sanders admitted that should the UK leave the EU without a deal on 31 October, then he expects there to be "inconveniences and frictions".

However, he said he is "very confident" in the preparations made.

"The primary focus has been on making sure that we can maintain our operational outputs," Gen Sanders said.

"Whether it's stocks or supplies, whether it's the operation of the airfield, whether it's the training that we do here - all of those things can continue and I'm very confident that's in place.

"I've been, as I say, really impressed with the preparations that have been made in that area, so I'm pretty confident that the impact will be minimal."

The UK has two Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs) on the Mediterranean island - RAF Akrotiri and Dhekelia.

In total, they cover 98 square miles and offer key strategic importance.

Akrotiri is the UK's busiest airbase - fighter jets take off from its runway on daily missions, targeting so-called Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq.

RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus (Picture: PA).

Ahead of the looming Brexit deadline, Gen Sanders said the bases are stockpiling in anticipation of "some initial friction".

"I think stockpile suggests panic – we’re not stockpiling because we think there’s going to be a huge problem," he said.

"We’re just taking the sort of prudent precautions that you would expect just to anticipate, possibly, some initial friction.

"We hope, we expect, that there’ll be none, but we’re a military organisation, we like to have reserves immaterial. We’re uncomfortable if we don’t, so we’ve got reserves immaterial."

Gen Sanders also played down any concerns over healthcare, stating personnel and their families "shouldn't notice a difference at all".

If the UK reaches a deal with the EU, he said "people won't notice very much at all" and that over the past 18 months, the UK has held "very productive discussions" on how the relationship with Cyprus will work post-Brexit.

F-35B taxiing on RAF Akrotiri runway (Picture: MOD).
A British F-35B fighter jet on the runway at RAF Akrotiri (Picture: MOD).

In the event of a no-deal, Gen Sanders said the UK would "expect" to establish working practices and protocols "very, very quickly".

While admitting a no-deal will cause "some frictions", he expects British Forces Cyprus to "ease through".

"People will just simply adjust very quickly to a different way of doing business to what we are at the moment."

One thing that is for certain is the process in which military personnel and their families based in Cyprus receive parcels will change.

Gen Sanders stated personnel will be "expected" to pay duty tax on parcels worth €18 or more.

While there will be "no change at all" with letters, he said orders from online retailer Amazon will cause the most problems.

Christmas Mail at RAF Akrotiri
Parcels, seen here being delivered to RAF Akrotiri in December 2018, will face duty tax if worth €18 or more.

He added the are working alongside the British Forces Post Office in London and retailers, including Amazon, to find a way in which an order is "delivered without tax having been added in the UK". 

"It’ll be held here very briefly, you’ll get a note which says here’s how much money you owe for this particular parcel, you can pay that online without having to leave home," he said.

"Within, we expect at the most, four days, you’ll get the parcel. It will still be delivered."

Gen Sanders' comments come seven months after his predecessor, General Sir Christopher Deverell,  visited personnel in the country to discuss the impact Brexit will have.

He also played down the potential consequences of Britain leaving the EU, saying  "everything will continue pretty much, as usual, the day after Brexit". 

However, back in the UK, the role of British troops in the event of a no-deal has been at the centre of much discussion. 

It has been announced that as many as 3,500 British military personnel could be called upon in the event of a no-deal.