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Summary of Brexit Meeting

Michael Reeve - 23-01-2019

At a meeting of the PS party in Loulé on Wednesday 16th January, the speaker was Dr Augusto Santos Silva, who is the Portuguese Minister for Foreign Affairs. The subject of the meeting was 'Brexit' and we were invited to attend the meeting by the Faro MP Dra Ana Passos....

-- Désolé, traduction française suit --

As the meeting was a PS Party meeting, much of the minister’s presentation was directed at the PS party members who were there and giving the government’s thoughts on the UK’s exit from the EU. However the minister acknowledged that there were UK citizens in the audience and answered questions about the Portuguese government’s intentions and desires as far as the British and Northern Irish community, both currently and in the future, is concerned. The main points that we took from the meeting, which lasted over two hours, are these: 
The Portuguese government has given a firm commitment to UK citizens who are resident in Portugal that their rights as they currently enjoy them are guaranteed to continue exactly as they are now. 
Anyone who is properly registered as a resident in Portugal will continue to have that right of residency and to renew it without any restriction. Obviously the need to register when you are resident in any EU country has been the law for many years, but the need to be legally registered as resident in Portugal is now more important than ever for obvious reasons. As has been stated many times in recent months by various people, it is important to be registered as resident in Portugal BEFORE the 29th March, which in the first instance is a simple matter of visiting your Câmara offices and declaring yourself resident. For more assistance on this Members can contact the afpop office for information. Those who are already registered and have temporary residency certificates, WILL be able to exchange them for permanent residency cards when they are due to be renewed and this right has been confirmed by the Portuguese government for the future and those who have permanent residency will be able to renew it when it is due without restriction. (Interestingly the minister said that SEF have around 20,000 UK citizens registered as resident and the British Embassy say that there are at least 35,000 UK nationals in Portugal as far as they are concerned.) 
The Portuguese government will be passing a law to extend the period for registering as a resident in Portugal to the 31st December 2020. However this does NOT mean that people who are already here have just been given licence to do nothing until the end of 2020. It is clearly intended for those people who will move to Portugal over the next two years, to allow them to register as resident under exactly the same rules as are currently in force. We urge Members who are not resident in Portugal and who are living here permanently to register as soon as possible and not see this as an opportunity to delay further – and to tell your friends to register if they are not already.  
The issue of travel and visas was addressed. As has been said when the UK leaves the EU, UK passport holders will no longer be entitled to enter EU countries using the EU passports desks. Exactly when this restriction will come into force is unclear, but it is safe to assume that it will begin immediately the UK formally leaves the EU. However, Portugal has taken a decision to open a UK passport desk at airports in Portugal, Madeira and the Açores to enable UK passport holders to pass through airports as quickly as possible. There is no more information on this at the moment, but when we do hear anything we will inform Members.  
The EU will add the UK to the list of countries that do not need to apply for visas to enter the EU for travel, which means that Members will be free to come and go to the UK without the restrictions of the 90 days in every 180 day rule. Again it is not clear when this will happen and we will inform Members of any development, however UK citizens resident in Portugal will still be allowed to travel throughout the EU using their Portuguese residency. They will be travelling as Portuguese residents and not as UK passport holders and therefore free movement WITHIN THE EU will continue. It is not clear how this will work for residents who only have their initial residency certificate, as there is no photo, signature, finger print or passport details recorded on that document. We have asked SEF for clarification about this and will inform Members of any update. 
There are some areas that cannot be discussed until after the UK has formally left the EU. Taxation (including CGT rollover on property sales) and Social Security matters are two areas that need specific agreement between the UK and Portugal and the Minister stated that those will begin at the earliest opportunity after the UK has left the EU. The Minister did stress that those matters were dealt with in bilateral agreements prior to the formation of the EU and, with some updating, would  continue again in the future.  
The right to vote in local elections and the right to be elected to local government bodies will be protected in Portuguese law. 
Sr Santos Silva confirmed several times during the meeting that UK citizens will continue to enjoy all the current freedoms that they have in Portugal. Driving licences will continue to be recognised, health care will continue to be available, pension credits will continue to be awarded and professional qualifications will continue to be accepted. In fact the minister quoted Winston Churchill and said "Keep Calm and carry on", adding "continue to do as you have done until advised otherwise".     
One other thing that I personally took from the meeting, which came from a comment that the minister made both in Portuguese and English, is that the Portuguese government is a minority government but that there is cross party agreement on these issues and that "laws will be passed". As Members know afpop has no political bias or any comment to make on political parties or the governance of the country, so my comments should be taken in that context and are not an indication that afpop has any political opinion about this, but the fact that the minister himself mentioned this and has stated that there is Will in parliament for the laws mentioned to be passed, I believe is a good message for the future. It means that any future government is likely to not see the need to undo legislation passed on these matters, as they will have been part of the process of passing the laws and not had laws forced upon them by a majority government. As I said this is just my opinion based on what I heard at the meeting, but this, together with the other assurances given by the minister and his overall sincerity on the desire of the Portuguese government to continue to welcome UK citizens as residents and visitors to Portugal, both in the short term and for the future, made me more hopeful than I have been for some time that UK citizens will indeed be able to continue to live, own property and work in Portugal and its islands for the foreseeable future. Of course there is a need for the UK government to reciprocate in some areas with over 300,000 Portuguese citizens living in the UK, but as the British Prime Minister has already guaranteed the rights of EU nationals to stay in the UK, it is difficult to see a scenario where these matters will not be resolved satisfactorily.  
We will of course continue to keep Members updated of any information we receive, either on the issues mentioned here or any other matter regarding your rights as Portuguese residents. But for now we have the minister’s oft stated assurance that UK citizens should continue to "keep calm and carry on".  This link will take you to the Portuguese government’s leaflet on the matter: 
Michael R Reeve,
CEO  afpop 


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