Brexit has damaged Britain’s oldest ally, Portugal, economically and politically by impacting its trade and international influence, its economy minister told The Times.
Pedro Siza Vieira, the economy minister, noted that Portugal had never been a member of a major international organisation which Britain was not also a member.
However, he said Brexit had damaged the relationship between the two old allies as they prepare to mark the 650th anniversary of the treaty which first forged their diplomatic bond.
The remarks are the first time that Lisbon has officially expressed its unhappiness about the negative effects on Portugal from Britain leaving the European Union.
“Some exports have been very adversely affected,” Siza Vieira said: “Brexit has had an adverse impact, of course . . . For Portugal, Brexit was not good news.” He added: “The UK is one of our main trading partners, one of the main investment partners.”
Siza Vieira, 57, the right-hand man of Antonio Costa, the prime minister, emphasised how Britain leaving the EU has also marred the deep political links between London and Lisbon.
“We have a very significant Portuguese community in the UK. Politically we have never been part of a significant international organisation of which the UK was not a member,” he said.
“So just imagine this: Britain was a founding member of EFTA (the European Free Trade Association). We benefited from that. When the UK joined the EU, we had to join the EU.”
The minister concluded that “one of the most constant principles of Portuguese foreign policy is the dialectic relationship with the UK”.
Speaking during an interview in Lisbon, Siza Vieira observed: “We are an Atlantic country not a continental country. It is a basic part of our identity and foreign policy to have a close relationship with the UK and US. So this [Brexit] is complicated for us. This is not something we were happy with.”
Diplomatic efforts are underway to rebuild the relationship and strike new trade deals, reinvoking the spirit of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, the oldest diplomatic alliance in the world
still in force.
Stemming from the Treaty of Tagilde on July 10, 1372, the “Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Alliance” was formally sealed a year later at St Paul’s Cathedral by Edward III and King
Fernando and Queen Leonor of Portugal.
It became the basis for centuries of military, diplomatic and commercial cooperation, including the age of naval exploration and conflicts with France and Spain. The links are visible in figures such as Henry the Navigator, the Portuguese prince who was John of Gaunt’s grandson, and Catharine of Braganza, who married Charles II, introduced the English to tea drinking, and gave Britain control of Bombay as part of her dowry.
More famously, during the Peninsular War (1807-1814), the Duke of
Wellington successfully defended Lisbon and Porto against Napoleon’s armies.
One of the oldest economic links, the port trade, was bolstered by the Methuen Treaty of 1703, which ensured that Portuguese wine could be sold more cheaply than French wine in England.
The Treaty of Windsor of 1386 was even invoked by Winston Churchill in the 20th century to ensure the neutrality of António de Oliveira Salazar, the Portuguese dictator, neutrality in the Second World War and secure important interests for the Allies.
Today, some 400,000 Portuguese live in Britain – including Luís Pitarma, from Aveiro, one of the nurses who stood by Boris Johnson’s bedside when he was hospitalised with Covid. The British community in Portugal is estimated to be up to 50,000-strong and British tourism accounts for up to 2 per cent of Portugal’s GDP.
Siza Vieira admitted that it was difficult to quantify the economic damage done by Brexit as the pandemic had also taken a toll, but he noted that Portugal’s exports to the UK had been adversely affected, particularly regarding car parts and textiles.
Figures released last year, for example, showed that Britain’s exit from the EU hit Portugal’s trade with the UK sharply compared with trade with other members of the bloc.
The value of goods brought into Portugal from Britain fell 56 per cent, compared with a drop of just 10.3 per cent from across the other 26 member countries. While Portugal’s sales to the EU
rose 1.3 per cent, exports to the UK fell over 15 per cent.
Article from The Times