In an interview with Lusa, Augusto Santos Silva also addresses the issue of fisheries, one of the last open points in the negotiation, to stress that, in this chapter, Portugal is not one of the countries that will be most affected by an eventual 'no-deal', but will indirectly benefit from its resolution.
"At the date and time we speak, the prospects are more positive than they were last week and therefore I would say that today we are closer to an agreement on the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom," said the minister, interviewed on 15 December.
The minister justifies this optimism by pointing out that "the negotiating teams are working", that "twice [...] the president of the European Commission and the prime minister of the United Kingdom have prevented the closing of negotiations without a positive result" and, "above all, because what separates the two entities is today relatively little".
"I believe that at the end of the day, rationality will tend to prevail over emotions. I believe that there will be an agreement," he says.
One of the "critical points" pending an agreement is fishing, in which Portugal has "a merely indirect interest," in that for fishing in Norwegian waters, particularly cod, it benefits "from a counterpart offered to Norway from fishing rights in UK waters.
"Therefore, our interest is merely indirect, we are not part of the group of countries that will be most directly harmed if no agreement is reached," he explains.
Another "critical point" are the conditions of competition, the economic agreement, in which the objective of "zero tariffs and zero quotas in trade between Europe and the United Kingdom", which allows exports and imports without customs duties, implies equivalent conditions for goods and services on both sides.
"Because, for example, European states are forbidden, except in well-defined exceptional circumstances, to subsidize their companies for them to have international advantages. The UK has to have an equivalent provision, otherwise the competition is not fair and we have to impose tariffs", he points out.
It is at this point that, "if there is no agreement, things will be more difficult," as from January the rules of the World Trade Organisation apply, with the imposition of tariffs on trade, which will affect exports, "important for some sectors of economic activity [in Portugal], for example, the canning industry, and will affect imports.
In the absence of an agreement, Portugal will apply the European contingency plan, because it belongs to a single market with "common conditions for commercial negotiation with third entities".
Already resolved, "to satisfaction" is what was "the main source of concern": the conditions and rights of European citizens residing in the United Kingdom and the British living in the European Union.
In the case of the Portuguese in the United Kingdom, there have already been "more than 300 thousand", with an "absolutely residual refusal rate", and in the case of the British in Portugal, between 2010 and 2020, the number of British living in Portugal "almost doubled", currently around 50 thousand.
Also when it comes to the tourism “things are settled”, which is of high importance to Portugal, since the UK is the biggest tourist market.
"We will not impose the need for a visa on any British citizen coming to Portugal and we trust that the UK will do the same for European citizens," he noted, adding that measures have already been taken at Faro and Funchal airports to facilitate "the entry and movement of British citizens who come, for example, on vacation.
With the risk of no agreement two weeks away from the end of the transition period, which ends on 31 December, Portugal is reviewing its national contingency plan, which, the minister explained, includes "an alignment regulation on financial services" and the bases for "negotiating a new bilateral social security agreement" and "an agreement on health", either at the European level or, if not possible, at the national level.