Foreign minister denies Portugal is China’s ‘special friend in the EU’

UK’s decision to suspend flights with Portugal “absurd” and “without logic”, says minister

Portugal’s minister for foreign affairs has slammed the British government flight ban announced earlier today (click here) as “absurd” and “without logic”.

Describing the decision as a “negative surprise”, Augusto Santos Silva told Lusa that he has asked British counterpart Dominic Raab to explain “the basis” for it.

“In our opinion (the decision) is illogical”, he said. “In the first place it is a sudden, unexpected measure. This was the first element of negative surprise. Secondly, it is a measure that strongly affects people who weren’t properly warned about it. It was announced at 5pm on the day before it came into effect at 4am”.

But it is also “absurd”, the minister said.

Suspending flights from Portugal on the basis that Portugal ‘has connections with Brazil’ is “with all due respect, completely absurd”: there is nothing to suggest that the Brazilian variant the British government is so concerned about has even arrived in Portugal, he stressed.

The focus of Portugal’s frustrations are the complications the decision has created for Portuguese people.

None of it makes sense, Santos Silva reiterated.

Right now (in the context of the pandemic) flights from Brazil to Portugal can only take place in for ‘essential reasons’. These essential reasons include journeys made by Portuguese citizens or by residents in Portugal, or trips by people from other countries who have to come here for professional reasons, to join family, to study or for another ‘powerful reason’.

“There are no tourist trips” between Portugal and Brazil these days – and passengers who do come here from Brazil – no matter what their nationality – cannot board their flight without a negative Covid test taken no less than 72-hours before flying.

“This means we are taking all the precautions for flights made to Portugal from other countries, including Brazil”, said the minister.

“I have already asked the British government for clarification, through the embassy. I have contacted my British colleague (Dominic Raab) and we are arranging a conversation between the two of us so that I can understand the reasoning for this measure – for it being unexpected, for it being sudden, for it not taking people into account (given the short time between the announcement and the measure’s implementation), and above all because the basis of the decision is incomprehensible”.

Quizzed by Lusa as to whether he had reminded the British government of the fact that Portugal did not suspend flights with UK after the discovery of the ‘British variant’ just before Christmas, Santos Silva said he believes in the value of reciprocity.

“When the British variant was discovered we, like practically all the States of the EU, moved to demand a negative Covid test from all passengers flying in from the UK, limiting flights to those that were essential. But we did not impede air travel between Portugal and the UK”, he concluded, stressing that anyone who is moving between the two countries at the moment “is not doing so to come on holiday…”

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com