Is Brexit an opportunity for Greece within the EU?
Since January 31, 2020, the United Kingdom (UK) is no longer part of the European Union (EU). Nevertheless, until the end of December, the British as well as the European Union’s States remains subjected to the European Union law. Since the official withdrawal of the UK in January, the EU had strong hopes that the transition period would lead to the conclusion of a free-trade agreement. But, Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, maintained his strong position of a « no deal Brexit » that implies no agreement between the two parties. The global pandemic acted like a real freezing of the negotiations. Every EU States thought it would have helped to conclude even a small agreement. In fact, the British Parliament decided, in July 2020, to extend the application of the EU law until July 2021 for customs matters. Nevertheless, this forward step was only a small exception. Indeed, since the beginning of the negotiations until today, the two parties did not find an agreement to conclude together. Furthermore, we are ready to face a « no deal Brexit » at the end of the year.
But what consequences for Greece ?
Greece is indeed part of the European Union, nevertheless, thanks to strong and ancient economic relations, the United Kingdom and greek citizens always had the privilege to obtain specialized laws adapted to each country. Brexit does not seem to change this long term relationship. In fact, before the official withdrawal of United Kingdom from the EU, the Greek government passed the 4652/2020 law that aims the relations between the two countries during the transition period. The purpose of this law (PDF version in Greek : https://www.hellenicparliament.gr/UserFiles/c8827c35-4399-4fbb-8ea6-aebdc768f4f7/11167727.pdf) is to protect British residents’ status and rights in Greece, as the upcoming residents. The purpose of this law was to evict the uncertainties concerning what is, will be or won’t be enforced until the official withdrawal of the United Kingdom in December, 31 2020. This law concerns, among others, the social rights (employment, insurance…) of British residents that won’t be anymore subjected to EU law in a « no deal » scenario.
However, this law is enforced only during the transition period. Thus, from December, 31 2020, the United Kingdom becomes a third State to the European Union and, in extension, to Greece. The British companies as well as the greek ones are getting ready for an important customs change due to a non-agreement of free-trade. The freedom of movement between the United Kingdom and Greece will be substituted to customs procedures.
Nevertheless, the non-conclusion of a free-trade agreement is not an obstacle to the common business exchanges between the two States. In fact, some British companies found a new strategy by acquiring the Greek or Cypriot nationality. As a consequence, these companies are insured to benefit the EU law and more specifically, the free-trade principle. This solution, available for major companies, is also extended to nationalities from Portugal, Austria or even Malta. Herewith, compared to the official negotiators of Brexit, it seems that the practice and its actors succeed to adapt themselves to the future 2021 post-Brexit.