Brexit: Portugal “country that could most suffer knock-on effects”

Portugal is one of the countries that could suffer most from the consequences of Brexit.

This was the message coming out of a debate in Lisbon this week in which analysts and academics pondered “Brexit, what Brexit?”

“This isn’t going to stop on January 31”, stressed Bernard Pires de Lima, an investigator for the Portuguese Institute of international relations. “And it’s not really a Brexit”, he added. “It’s more of an Englexit. Northern Ireland is the collateral damage of the whole process, and Scotland is one of the next steps in the collateral damage. Scotland won’t accept an exit from the EU and could bring on the kind of constitutional collision seen in Catalonia, obviously without the violence, if central parliament in London refuses a new referendum on independence…”

British-based Portuguese Bernardo Ivo Cruz, editor of The London Brexit Monthly Digest, was the pundit who coined the phrase “Portugal could be one of the countries that suffers the most”.

His reasoning being that Britain’s exit “could make the EU more continental, particularly when it comes to the eurozone. We (Portugal) need to be aware of this and reinforce our Atlantic dimension, the CPLP (community of Portuguese speaking nations), the diaspora, our capacity for being an honest broker on the international scene.

“This is a role that Portugal has come to assume”, he told the floor. “Portugal, Spain, France and Ireland are the Atlantic countries within the EU. With Spain and France more facing the Mediterranean, the Atlantic dimension is basically left to Portugal and Ireland”.

Pires de Lima stressed that in his opinion there would be no winners with Brexit and that collateral effects need to be discussed.

“There is no debate in Portugal” on these collateral effects, he warned.

“We’re going to have a United Kingdom pushing for an alliance with the north, that could involve Ireland and the Baltics, playing the European game at the same time without being able to sit at the table.

“For a State like Portugal who is always trying to find balance between the continental and Atlantic dimensions, this is very relevant.

“We will have a UK out of the continental dimension and for the first time a United States of America in favour of Community disintegration and sceptical with regards to NATO.

“For the first time, Portugal will have to live with two of its greatest allies compromising two dimensions (continental and Atlantic).
“Nothing will ever be the same – nor will the internal stability of the United Kingdom be, either.

“Spain in four years has had four elections. The UK has had three. None of this is normal. It will shatter stability. It may not affect economic stability, but it affects political stability.

“Portugal is exposed to the United Kingdom, to Spain and also to the United States. We have to understand how to read the situation and respond to it”.

Pires de Lima added that Russia is the ‘elephant in the room’. “For the first time, since 2018, we have been importing Russian oil, from Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

“We’re an Atlantic country but for oil exports we appear more a country on the Black Sea”, he said.

As to the elections now called in UK for December 12, the debate suggested these are an ‘invitation to abstention’ for various reasons, but will be extraordinary – for the level of feeling, determination and populism at play.

Said Ivo Cruz, Labour is the party that looks like it ‘doesn’t know what to do’.

But as to ‘favourites’, the debate seemed to lean towards Boris Johnson, even though his policies are “not really coherent”.

Said writer Leonídio Paulo Ferreira “in politics personality is very important because there’s a fringe of the electorate that won’t read the treaties and which, at the decisive hour, will vote for the politician who transmits the most confidence. Boris Johnson won’t be penalised for the lies he has been peddling or the fake news of the referendum campaign, while Corbyn comes over as the Ugly Duckling”.

It was a sombre debate but one that shows that Portuguese intellectuals if not its politicians are watching the whole Brexit process keenly, only too aware how this country’s future could be affected.

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