AVDIMOU, Cyprus – Olive farmer Andreas Fotiou steered carefully along a dusty lane in southwest Cyprus, en route from his village to nearby groves — locations that could have clashing trade regimes, post-Brexit.

He fears he could lose out on vital EU subsidies, and even be forced to pay crippling tariffs, if London and Brussels fail to finalise a withdrawal agreement or trade deal.

Fotiou is one of thousands of Cypriot farmers who work on British military bases, part of Britain’s sovereign territory, and which sprawl over about three percent of the Mediterranean island.

“If the UK leaves the EU on bad terms… (it) spells disaster for the communities that are on the British bases,” said the 54-year-old.

“We cannot afford to pay extra taxes,” he added, amid uncertainty about tariffs that generally apply when produce is imported from so-called “third party countries” into EU territory.

The European Commission’s online trade and customs database flags duties of 15.2 percent for olive imports from nations outside the EU with no agreed trade deals.

Historically, relations between local farmers and the British military have been “excellent”, Fotiou said, standing in the shade of an olive tree.

“When there are problems we sit at the table and solve it on the spot.”

But “no one has informed us what will happen after Brexit, what the status will be,” he added.

Olives, grapes and potatoes are key crops on extended non-militarised stretches of these British sovereign territories, while farmers also keep livestock.

Negotiations between London and Brussels over an EU withdrawal agreement have been running parallel to talks between Britain and Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, on an annex to the main exit deal.

Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament last week that the Cypriot protocol has now been “developed”.

But the European Commission has long maintained that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, indicating that the Cyprus protocol would be inapplicable if ongoing negotiations over the wider UK-EU withdrawal deal fail.

Cyprus’s foreign ministry told AFP “the rights and interests of Cypriots residing in the bases should and will be safeguarded”, even if there is no withdrawal agreement.

Cyprus has “plans for addressing all scenarios”, the ministry said in a statement to AFP.

It cited the former British colony’s 1960 Treaty of Establishment, which stipulates that there be no customs barriers between the bases and the Republic of Cyprus.

AFP

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