IMF director Christine Lagarde has given her own twist on what Brexit could mean for Portugal.
It’s a far cry from the mutual agreements forged to maintain the status quo (click here).
Talking to RTP today on potential clouds on the horizon thanks to Brexit, she said: “Portugal is not entirely protected because there is quite a bit of trade between Portugal and the UK, and you have a lot of one of your great services activities which is tourism that has been widely opened to the United Kingdom.
“A good friend of mine used to say: gentleman be fearful of the return of the in-laws.
“Can you imagine if all the retired people from the UK were to relocate from Portugal back to the UK? All the mother-in-laws and fathers-in-law would be back. Well…”
“It’s a huge problem”, her interviewer agreed.
Allowing a moment for laughter, Lagarde returned to the apparent seriousness of her message, saying: “Economically, it’s a big issue”.
But is it? What are the chances of British expats – repeatedly assured here that ‘nothing will change’ – suddenly deciding to up-sticks en-masse and go home to a country that is ‘deeply divided’ and bitterly cold (most of the time)?
Haven’t we just heard that uptake of Portugal’s NHR tax regime has increased by 83% in the last year, with Brits among the largest nationalities signing up to it (click here)?
Perhaps we can hold on to comments in a recent blog in the Spectator: “The IMF has an appalling record at economic forecasting – as, indeed, does virtually every other organisation which tries its hand at it” – and hope that Ms Lagarde’s thoughts of fleeing parents-in-law are equally off the mark.
Certainly finance minister Mário Centeno believes Portugal has done “everything that needs to be done to prepare for a no-deal scenario” (an option that is now looking less and less likely).
In Bucharest for an informal meeting of the Eurogroup, Centeno agreed that the economic consequences of any form of Brexit imply short-term upset within the EU, but that Portugal is by no means less prepared than any of the other member states.