Greece preparing for Brexit

Major changes are coming from 1 January 2021 in the UK’s trade and economic relations with the European Union, as on 31.12.2020 the transitional period set by the Exit Agreement at the beginning of 2020 ends.

Even after the initial UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) of 24 December, new data are expected to emerge with the new year, as the UK exits the Single Market and the customs union particularly in the areas of trade, customs, road transport, customs procedures and border controls, persons and goods, as well as fiscal, health and phytosanitary matters.

Although national preparations depend on and are inextricably linked to preparations at European Union level, the Greek government has been preparing intensively over the past period to mitigate the immediate consequences of the UK leaving the EU Single Market and Customs Union. , whether an agreement was finally reached or not.

In particular, the goal of the Greek government was:

– the national legislative and administrative emergency measures are ready, which could enter into force immediately, if no agreement is finally reached.
– to fully and timely implement all the provisions of the Exit Agreement that enter into force on 1.1.2021 and to adequately inform citizens and businesses about the changes that will occur at the end of the transitional period, with or without agreement.

In this context, the interventions of the Greek government moved in three axes: legislative, administrative and informing interested citizens and businesses.

A) Legislative preparation

Law 4652/2020 on Brexit was tabled by Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis and adopted on 23 January 2020, regulating the key issues of national competence arising from the entry into force of the Exit Agreement (citizens’ rights, separation issues). In addition, it provides for the strengthening of the human resources of AADE, in order to deal with delays and problems in the commercial and customs procedures at the end of the transitional period. It also includes provisions in case of no deal (scenario no deal) in the financial, tourism, insurance and transport sectors.
By authorization of the above law (N. 4652/2020), on October 19, 2020, JMAs and interpretative circulars of the Ministries of Civil Protection and Immigration for the residence rights of the British beneficiaries of the Exit Agreement were adopted.
At the same time, a circular was issued by the Ministry of Labor on social security coordination issues, based directly on the relevant articles of the Exit Agreement.
In the last bill of 2020 submitted by the Ministry of Health and voted 21/12/2020 (for COVID19), the following amendments were provided:

– possibility of adopting separate JMCs (Ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs, Health and Labor) to continue the coordination of social security and medical coverage for the beneficiaries of the Exit Agreement, and
– amendment that would allow the uninterrupted continuation of the provision of financial services until 31.12.2021 in the event that no agreement was reached (no deal scenario).

In addition, a JMC of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Infrastructure & Transport (and a relevant exchange of letters between Greece and the UK) is ready to regulate nationally the exchange of driving licenses without reviewing the qualifications of British nationals in Greece and Greek nationals in the UK. This issue is not regulated for all EU citizens by the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
The Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy has adopted an amendment that keeps in the Greek register ships of British interests until 2024 with the possibility of extension, in order to have time to follow the procedures required to remain in the Greek register.
Finally, with the JMC of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the co-responsible Ministries, two inter-ministerial Project Monitoring Teams will be set up immediately, which will resolve emerging problems for citizens’ rights and for intellectual property and geographical indications, as provided for in the Departure Agreement and the recent UK-EU Cooperation.

B) Administrative preparation (at national and European level)

For the better information and readiness of the Greek Public Administration regarding what will apply at the end of the transitional period, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs intensified from June 2020 the coordination of the co-competent ministries and bodies, through coordinating teleconferences. The aim was to ascertain at regular intervals the level of preparation of the ministries, to examine possible problems in each area separately and take decisions on the required legislative, administrative, technical, organizational and informational measures.

These teleconferences took place between June and November 2020, initially between the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Varvitsiotis, who had the role of Chief Coordinator as Minister in charge of European Affairs and BREXIT, and the Secretaries General of the Ministries (2 teleconferences). This was followed by a series of 13 thematic teleconferences by the BREXIT inter-ministerial committee at official level.

At the same time, a number of teleconferences and meetings took place between the Greek services on the one hand and the British and European organizations on the other, so that the executives of the Greek Public Administration could answer questions and follow best practices for the best implementation of the country’s contractual and administrative obligations.

Thus far, the following have taken place:

– 2 teleconferences of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Varvitsiotis, with General Secretaries of the Ministries.
– 1 plenary conference call of an inter-ministerial committee on Brexit at official level
– 13 thematic teleconferences of the inter-ministerial committee BREXIT at official level
– 1 teleconference of the Interministerial Committee with those responsible for preparing the Member States for the end of the transitional period,
– 1 e-workshop of the BREXIT inter-ministerial committee with the British side on civil rights.
– 4 teleconferences of the FREEMO Group
– 6 meetings / teleconferences of the Special Committees of the Exit Agreement
– 2 meetings / teleconferences of the EU Administrative Commission for the coordination of social security systems
– 2 teleconferences of the British CAA with the Greek CAA.

Indicatively, among the issues examined:

– the rights of British nationals in Greece and Greek nationals in the UK
– customs and tax procedures after the end of the transitional period,
– changes in air, road (freight and passenger), rail and sea transport,
The impact on the tourism sector
The implications for the financial sector
The effects on intellectual property and geographical indications
The management of freight flows to and from the UK
– future police and judicial cooperation in case of no deal
– education and culture issues,
Digital policy issues
Energy, environment and climate issues, etc.

C) Information of interested citizens and companies

For the preparation of Greek citizens and Greek companies in view of the departure of the United Kingdom, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

– Co-organized, in 2019, with the Central Union of Chambers of Commerce of Greece, EVEA and EBETH 3 days to prepare Greek companies for the no deal scenario, with the participation of the Deputy Secretary General of the European Commission Ms. Gauer, Deputy Foreign Minister Varvitsiotis and Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Frangogiannis.
– Organized, in 2020, three e-webinars, in collaboration with the competent customs and border authorities of the UK, for the presentation of the new UK customs model that will be implemented from 1.1.2021.
– Created the website, which is constantly updated with information about Brexit and through which it answers questions from citizens (British and Greeks) and businesses.
– It also frequently posts business information on the Agora website through the London ISD Office. Individual thematic information has been posted on the websites of other ministries and agencies (Ministry of Culture, Immigration, Transport, AADE, Development and Investment, General State Chemist, etc.), with the banner of
– Within January – June 2021, there will be a digital information campaign on social media for British citizens in Greece.
– Within January 2021, an e-conference or digital information campaign is planned to inform companies about what will eventually apply to customs and other procedures, based on the recent UK-EU trade agreement.
– For the first weeks of January 2021, there will be a Helpline of the European Commission and a corresponding helpline at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Citizen Protection, the Ministry of Immigration and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to inform citizens and businesses.

The initial EU-UK agreement signed on 24 December has been welcomed by the Foreign Ministry, as it lays the groundwork for a new strong partnership and, as announced after the announcement, both Deputy Foreign Minister Varvitsiotis As well as the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, with this Europe is moving forward, as this is a historic trade agreement and will be the basis for a mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides in the future. On the contrary, a no deal would have unintended consequences for trade, the economy, citizens and businesses in all EU Member States.

In any case, Greece, aiming at strengthening cooperation with the United Kingdom in areas of mutual interest and in the post-Brexit era, continues its bilateral consultations with the British side. In this context, initiatives have already been taken, such as the Immigration Action Plan and the Defense Action Plan, while the possibility of revising (a) the Greece-UK Education and Culture Agreement of 1953, (b) the Greece-UK Agreement is being assessed. for the shipping sector and (c) the double taxation agreement.