While the anti-EU part of the Fourth Estate - which, in the UK, means most of it - is telling us that leaving the European club of which we have been a member for 44 years is A Very Good Thing, other member states have accepted that Britain is on its way out, and are planning accordingly. This means wanting to remain on good terms with the Westminster Government, but also being ready to take advantage of new business opportunities.
Praça do Comércio, Lisbon
What might this mean? Well, there will inevitably be companies which decide that being based in an EU member state is best for them: this gives them trouble-free access to the Single Market, and the ability to trade with that increasing number of countries with which the EU has free trade agreements. So the centre-left coalition Government in Portugal has set up a small department to make sure companies know they are keen to do business.
Arriving on Zelo Street over the weekend has been the text of a communiqué from the Council of Ministers issued on 30th March: this is the contents of Item 4, with an approximate English translation, just so the anti-EU gang gets it.
“Foi aprovada a criação de uma estrutura temporária designada por Portugal In, que terá como desígnio atrair para Portugal investimentos que pretendam permanecer na União Europeia após a saída do Reino Unido”.
Approved - the creation of a temporary department called Portugal In, which will aim to attract businesses to Portugal that intend to remain in the European Union after the departure of the United Kingdom.
“Sob a dependência do Primeiro-ministro, esta Estrutura de Missão vem contribuir para o cumprimento do objetivo definido no Programa de Governo de captação de mais e melhor investimento direto estrangeiro, essencial para reforçar a competitividade da economia nacional”.
Reporting to the Prime Minister, this Department contributes to fulfilling the Government’s objective of attracting more and better foreign direct investment, essential for strengthening the competitiveness of the national economy.
“Através da promoção dos fatores de diferenciação e complementaridade que Portugal oferece, nomeadamente ao nível dos recursos humanos e da posição geoeconómica do país, pretende-se dinamizar a capacidade empresarial nacional e a criação de emprego, reafirmando o compromisso com o projeto europeu”.
By promoting the differentiation and complementarity that Portugal offers, in terms of human resources and the geo-economic position of the country, it is intended to boost national entrepreneurship and job creation, reaffirming the commitment to the European project.
“A Estrutura de Missão para o Investimento Estrangeiro será constituída por uma comissão executiva de que são membros Bernardo Trindade (presidente), Chitra Stern e Gonçalo da Gama Lobo Xavier e cujo mandato termina a 31 de dezembro de 2019”.
This department for Foreign Investment will be overseen by an executive committee of three members, Bernardo Trindade (president), Chitra Stern and Gonçalo da Gama Lobo Xavier, and whose term ends on December 31, 2019.
An accompanying article in the Público helpfully explains that Bernardo Trindade is a former tourism minister who is an executive director of a hotel chain, while Chitra Stern is the owner and founder of a hotel and resort chain in Portugal whose degree study was undertaken in London (as was her MBA). And Gonçalo da Gama Lobo Xavier is a leader of the Association of Metallurgical, Metal-Mechanical and Allied Industries (AIMMAP), representing a sector that has contributed much to securing inward investment in Portugal.
All of that means that the Government in Lisbon is serious about letting businesses in the UK, which want to remain in the EU, know that they are in the market when it comes to relocating to the European mainland. No doubt other EU member states will be equally keen to tempt businesses to relocate to their particular patches.
That means there may be another 26 incarnations of Portugal In, and all looking to bring businesses to their country. Meanwhile, our Government is struggling to tell us it will all be fine, with our free and fearless press shouting down dissenters and letting us know that it’s all about freedom.
Freedom which clearly includes the ability of other EU member states to benefit from Brexit. What you will not read in the papers (yet).