“Brexit: Advantages & Disadvantages” was the topic of discussion on Thursday 8 November at a seminar co-organised by Parikiaki Newspaper and NEPOMAK UK at the Cypriot Community Centre in Wood Green.

The Leader of Merton Council, Stephen Alambritis, was the main speaker and presented a thorough and sophisticated evaluation of the positives and negatives of Britain leaving the European Union. After Councillor Alambritis’ main speech, he was joined for a panel discussion on the issue by Stephanos Ioannou, NEPOMAK UK committee member and Councillor for Southgate on Enfield Council, and Chriso Ioannou, representative of Parikiaki Newspaper.

The panel discussion was chaired by the President of NEPOMAK UK, Harry Charalambous, who called for an open and honest exchange of views between the panellists and audience about Brexit.

The event was also attended by the Managing Director of Parikiaki Newspaper, Bambos Charalambous; President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, Christos Karaolis; and the President of NEPOMAK, Christos Tuton.

In his opening remarks, Councillor Alambritis dissected the arguments for and against Brexit and analysed critical issues including immigration, Britain’s contribution towards the EU budget, the potential for free trade deals with the rest of the world, and the consequences for the NHS. He also discussed potential impacts on the UK Cypriot community with regards to travel to Cyprus and trade with Cyprus. Councillor Alambritis’ analysis of the Brexit debate was balanced and looked at the merits of both sides of the argument using well-researched figures and statistics. He concluded that he believes that Britain is better off remaining in the European Union. Perhaps his most important message was the need for “strong political leadership” to combat populism and “take Britain forwards as a great country, whatever the relationship between the UK and the EU is.”

During the panel discussion, Councillor Stephanos Ioannou talked through the historical relationship between the EU and the UK and explained some aspects of the political and social context that led to the British public voting to leave the European Union. Councillor Ioannou said that he believes that there will be, and should be, a referendum on the final Brexit deal before it is passed, where the public will be able to vote for one of three options: 1) accepting the proposed Brexit deal, 2) accepting a so-called ‘no deal’ Brexit or 3) reversing Article 50 and, therefore, remaining in the European Union. He said that “the debate has changed” since the referendum in 2016 and that needed to be matched by a new referendum.

Chriso Ioannou, representing Parikiaki Newspaper, discussed the implications of Brexit on the financial services industry with a particular focus on her specialist field of insurance. She said that her assessment is that London is “unlikely to lose its competitive edge” and pointed to “product innovation and expertise” as areas where London excels. Ms Ioannou also explained that some insurance firms will feel relieved that they would no longer be compelled to comply with EU regulations and directives. However, she also highlighted the potential damage that the loss of ‘passporting’ rights for firms who do not have registered offices in the European Economic Area (EEA) could have and explained that it may force some to relocate. Ms Ioannou used Lloyd’s as an example of a firm who have already taken contingency measures regarding ‘passporting’ rights by setting up a registered office in Brussels that will start operations in January 2019.

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