Edition 1479
16 June 2018
Edition: 1479

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British Ambassador addresses Brexit concerns ahead of summer changeover

by Carrie-Marie Bratley, in News · 07-06-2018 13:41:00 · 0 Comments

The departing British Ambassador to Portugal, Kirsty Hayes, says “a really full agreement on a huge range of issues” has already been reached ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU in March 2019, and appeared confident there will be very little change for British citizens already residing in Portugal.

British Ambassador addresses Brexit concerns ahead of summer changeover

If storms are lurking on the seas to Brexit then there is little sign of any from British Ambassador Kirsty Hayes, who, speaking to The Portugal News on the sidelines of the International Algarve Fair in the Algarve city of Lagoa last weekend, portrayed a picture of seemingly plain sailing, with less than a year to go to the UK’s official divorce from the EU.
Speaking at the International Algarve Fair, which the Ambassador officially inaugurated on Saturday, alongside Lagoa council deputy-mayor Luís Encarnação, Kirsty Hayes addressed several issues pertaining to the impending UK-EU separation, as well as her own departure from Portugal this summer.
Pensions were inevitably towards the top of topics addressed by the Ambassador, given their relevance to many UK expats, and she was quick to reassure recipients they will “continue to receive pensions as normal”.
“Pensions will continue to be indexed in the same way, with the triple lock provision, and wherever in the EU [workers] earned their money and paid tax and social security, that will all be counted toward pensions”, she explained, emphasising: “basically, there will be no change.”
The Ambassador stressed this is also the case with residency.
Elaborating, she clarified “if you’re covered by withdrawal agreement” – which is anyone living legally in Portugal at present or anyone who arrives before the UK leaves the EU next March – “you will be able to continue living legally in Portugal and you will also be able to continue accessing public services, like health, as you do now”.
Ambassador Hayes also said that she does not foresee the residency renewal process being any harder post-Brexit, nor should people be concerned about double-taxation, “as this is not even governed by EU regulation, but by a bilateral agreement between PT and UK, so no change there”.
But, she stressed, if people do have concerns regarding their earnings, “the best thing is to consult a professional financial advisor”.
After meeting last week with Portugal’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Eduardo Cabrita, the Ambassador revealed he had “emphasised very much there would be continuity”.
“Portugal wants to keep hold of the Brits who are here and wants more Brits to come and live here. The Portuguese government really values its British community and in turn, the community should feel really reassured that it has great support in the form of the Portuguese government”.
Addressing swirling reports of privately-funded Anti-Brexit campaigns and recurring suggestions of a possible Brexit reversal, the British Ambassador said she believes “what’s really important, rather than keep revisiting that question, is to focus on the future and how we can get the best possible agreement with the EU moving forward”.
Reflecting on her term in Portugal, which comes to an end this summer, Kirsty Hayes says she’s had “an amazing four years” and feels “really honoured to have been given this opportunity for my first time as an ambassador”, but admits her posting was “a bit of a game of two halves”.
“The Referendum fell almost mid-way through my term and the job did change a lot. Our exit from EU affects everything we do; it affects the political dialogue we have with the government, it affects our consular work because obviously one of our priorities is making sure our community understands how Brexit affects them; it affects our commercial work, so it cuts across everything”.
Besides that, she says a lot has also changed in Portugal since she took up office in September 2014.
“When I arrived, Portugal wasn’t in the darkest days of austerity, but it certainly felt like a country that had been through a lot of social and economic difficulties.
“I think now Portugal feels like a very optimistic place. The economy is growing, we had the successful Web Summit, the Euro, Eurovision; António Guterres being elected Secretary General of the UN… it really feels like Portugal is winning everything. I think the British community here has always recognised what a wonderful place to live that Portugal is, but in recent years there has been a real buzz about the country.”
Describing the British community in Portugal as “a real asset” to it, she admitted it was a challenge to ascertain with any certainty exactly how many Britons are living in Portugal at present, despite a small growth having been noted in the central region.
The hindrance is mainly due to “a fair number of residents who don’t register with their local SEF office”.
The Ambassador urges all British citizens living in Portugal to “make sure they get registered” with their local SEF borders and immigration office, “which is particularly important as we approach Brexit”, to ensure continued use of the rights currently conferred.
British tourism figures to Portugal also continues to be strong, she says, at around 3 million British visitors per year. “Although I think there has been a slight falling off of British tourists, to the Algarve in particular, which may have something to do with the weaker pound at the moment.
“But overall it’s still a very strong picture in the Algarve and in Portugal as a whole”.
When she leaves Portugal this summer to return to the UK, Ambassador Hayes will be replaced by her successor Chris Sainty, who she describes as “a very experienced European specialist and a fantastic linguist” who speaks a number of languages.
“He has also been learning Portuguese. I met him recently in London and his Portuguese is sounding really pretty good. He will do a great job”. Mr. Sainty’s predecessor praises, though quips: “I always say he’s practically perfect in every way, it’s just a shame he’s a man because we have a great group of female ambassadors in Lisbon.
“There are 20 of us and we’ve been doing a lot of initiatives recently together, such as the Conference on Women in Technology”, she says jovially.
Nonetheless, much as Brexit will fast come around, Ambassador Kirsty Hayes’ term too will soon be reaching its end, but, she says, “I’ll always carry a bit of Portugal with me in my heart”. 

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Edition 1479
16 June 2018
Edition: 1479

Read this week's issue online exactly as it appears in print.

Twitter