“Nothing is impossible at this stage” says new UK ambassador to Portugal

Chris Sainty Brexit Speech

“Anything is possible with Brexit at this stage” according to the new British Ambassador to Portugal, Chris Sainty who addressed a select members of the British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce this week.

“We are genuinely in an unprecedented uncertain situation, particularly if the vote goes against the Government next week (Tuesday),” he said.

On the scenario or a second referendum and the possibility of staying in the EU, he warned that there are “really formidable obstacles” with the need for legislation in the UK to hold a second referendum. “It’s very hard to see without a government that is willing to take that legislation through Parliament, how that is going to happen” he said.

Then there is the issue of having a majority in the House of Commons which would even vote for a second referendum. “That too is very doubtful.”

The third major obstacle is that there is no time to held a referendum now and the date of the UK’s departure next year. This would mean changing the date of departure which would be difficult politically and that in itself would require another piece of legislation.

“Finally, if we got through all that, and there was another referendum with a vote to remain, we would have to revoke our Article 50 notification and how you would do that is now the subject of a fierce debate in the European Court of Justice” said Sainty.

Another possibility is a Norway or EEA style arrangement with a custom’s union as well to solve the Irish border question which in turn would raise a whole series or difficult legislative obstacles.

On the 25 November the European leaders met in Brussels and signed off on the deal which had been provisionally concluded in the preceding days by the EU and UK negotiators following 18 months of very difficult and intense negotiations taking place in a public spotlight and on some of the most difficult and intractable issues to have come up in any EU political negotiations for many years.

“Whatever the fate of the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration in the coming days, it was quite an achievement, it’s worth underlining just what an extraordinary result the agreement was.”

Now in the final days of the very noisy and intense political debate in the British Parliament leading up to a vote on Tuesday (11 December).

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this vote is probably the most important decision that this parliament has been asked to take for many years, it is a decision that will really have very profound implications for the UK for years to come.

THE DEAL Consists of two documents:

The Withdrawal Agreement (585 pages), essentially a draft treaty, which if ratified would be a legally binding document and lays down the terms of the UK’s departure. It covers a number of important areas: the right of citizens of the EU and UK living in each other’s territories, the amount of money the UK will pay for leaving the EU, the extraordinarily difficult issue of how to ensure that we never have to institute a hard customs border in Northern Ireland and the 21 month transition period. The Political Declaration (26 pages) represents a joint aspiration between the UK and EU on how both would like the future trading and security relationship to look like. During the next 21 months that would be converted into a legally binding treaty itself which would come into foce on 20 January 2021.

DEAL APPROVED If the deal is approved, and that can’t be discounted, there can be a high degree of confidence that the UK will leave the EU on the March 29 next year “in an orderly way.”

A 21 month transition period will offer a guarantee for a considerable degree of continuity and certainty — two words which are of particular importance to the business community which views it as an attractive scenario from that perspective. It means the UK will remain inside the Customs’s Union and Single Market until the end of 2020. That means that in terms of the rules and the legal framework and the way in which goods and services move across borders — none of that will change until at least the end of 2020.

During the 21 months, the idea is the UK and EU return to the negotiating table and convert the second part of the deal, the political declaration.

“This is a reassuring message to business and economic actors” says the ambassador with the caveat that many believe the striking of a trade deal by 2021 is “unrealistic” often taking years to negotiate.

If the deal was not concluded by the end of 2020, there are two options: 1) extend the transition period or, 2) move to the backstop.

WHAT IS THE BACKSTOP? The ambassador did NOT elect to discuss this but negotiations between the UK and the EU have often focused on the complicated situation around the Northern Ireland (UK) and Eire (EU) border.

The backstop is essentially a safety net if there is no Brexit trade deal. It would avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Eire and would see Britain remain in the custom’s union for as long as necessary until and alternative way of keeping the border open is found.

It would ensure that no tariffs, quotas, rules of origin or customs processes would be applied to EU-UK trade.

At the same time, the UK would be able to strike free trade arrangements with other countries. The Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox has been ordered to publish all the legal advice he has given to the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May. He has handed over a summary. It concluded that the proposed backstop would stop Britain making trade deals around the world in a separate legal document.

This means that if no superseding agreement can be reached within the implementation period, the protocol would be activated and in international law would subsist, even if negotiations broke down. Critics say it is a trap to keep the UK in the EU in all but name.

With any of these options under the deal scenario there is a fair degree of continuity and certainty for business and commerce.

DEAL NOT APPROVED If not approved by the House of Commons, the UK finds itself in a more uncertain and risky situation. There are different scenarios being discussed.

“One of the questions I get asked all the time here in Portugal is — ‘is there going to be a second referendum?’” said Sainty.

“A second referendum is not the policy of the British Government with the Prime Minister saying clearly and publicly that she would not support under any circumstances a second referendum.”

“I worry because no deal is not a choice, no deal is a default of what happens if we get to the 29 March and government and parliament have not succeeded in putting in place some alternative deal or solution,” the Ambassador asserted.

Although there is a small group of Conservatives who want a no deal scenario, the majority in parliament, business and society think that no deal is the worst possible outcome but is not a scenario that can be discarded.

“It would be a bad outcome for the UK, for our European partners and for business all over Europe” concluded the ambassador.

Text and Photo:
Essential Business

Chris Barton Portrait

The British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce – remaining relevant in a world of technological change

Chris Barton

Digital technology is changing business and the way it is conducted at such a hallucinating pace that it is no mean feat for trade organisations and chambers of commerce to remain relevant to its members.

When potential members beg the question “How can you help us?” a chamber of commerce needs to offer a pretty good raft of products and services that differentiate it from the rest and bring value-added to their businesses.

That need to innovate and keep relevant has led to constant evolution regarding how the British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce rethinks and adapts its offer to keep pace with market change in order to entice more businesses, organisations and professionals to join.

Chris Barton, CEO of the BPCC says that “technology impacts on every business” and has revolutionised many of the traditional businesses.

“Sustained success means remaining informed, keeping pace and not being complacent, while having access to the most insightful business gurus and influential trend-setters is crucial.” explains Chris Barton of a Chamber that has been in existence for over 100 years in Portugal, helping Portuguese businesses set up in the UK and British business to flourish in Portugal.

Networking cocktails popular in the Algarve
The benefits of membership mean different things to different members in different parts of Portugal. In the Algarve, for example, networking is highly prized. “Our monthly networking cocktails attract 60-120 people as the typical Algarve based member finds this format particularly appealing. Experience shows that we have a fairly even split between Portuguese nationals and foreigners” says Chris Barton.

“Many of the Algarve members are typically companies with fewer than 12 employees and membership numbers have steadily increased with the BPCC being the most successful and well-known chamber of commerce in that region — the only one with a dedicated regional representative.

The Brexit effect
Chris Barton says there remains frustration and concern from Portuguese and British expatriates alike. Two years on from the referendum and there are still many unanswered questions which leaves people feeling insecure. However, there is some comfort in the notion that the Portuguese have been compatible and harmonious friends for hundreds of years, long before either of us were in the EU, so there is expectation that at least our two countries will find a peaceful way of preserving our mutual respect and buoyant bilateral trade.

One negative consequence which has already been evident is that some Portuguese companies have been a little more reluctant to exhibit at trade shows in the UK which impacts on one of our more important sources of income.” Conversely, we have seen an upturn of companies regarding the upheaval relating to Brexit as providing new opportunities. Entrepreneurs are often opportunistic by nature, so disruption is an environment in which they can thrive.

The bottom line
“Although making a profit is crucial for a company’s long-term welfare, businesses have become increasingly conscious that the “bottom line” isn’t the only KPI worthy of monitoring. Preserving reputation, pride in being a diverse employer and contributing to protecting the environment, all have new significance. The membership strives to be an integral part of the local community so that we can add value to the economic, social and cultural environment in Portugal”

The BPCC is renowned for the quantity and diversity of the events it offers its members – some of which are by invitation only and therefore perceived as being very exclusive. A popular format, particularly amongst the Lisbon based members, is the ‘brain-storming think-tank lunches’ where between 12-20 people are carefully selected to exchange experiences and opinions around a common theme. Recent themes have included “the role of reputable international schools for attracting foreign families to settle in Portugal”; “Moving towards a cashless society – what impact will the increasingly discussed phenomenon of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies have on mainstream businesses?”, “Defining your value proposition – and how to implement it” and “Ladies of Influence”.

By delivering on its own unique value proposition, the BPCC can support in delivering those of its members, while association with the Chamber facilitates positioning within a specific and clearly defined business interest group. This can help align members themselves with potential clients and differentiate themselves from their competitors.

United through shared values and common interests
Furthermore, members’ valuable contributions towards the Chamber’s communal objectives can help substantiate the member’s own values.

“Irrespective of the area of commercial activity, people need people and human interaction through knowledge sharing and close collaboration bring about best practices for the common good of the wider business community” says Chris Barton.

“History has shown that nobody can survive alone and that “we are stronger together”, so by a small act of Corporate Social Responsibility, such as becoming a chamber member, an enterprise can contribute and benefit from the association’s collective talents and strengths.

The BPCC provides a forum for well-established corporations, right through to those leading edge, ground-breaking start-ups currently disrupting the status quo, and all have a rightful place as part of the Chamber’s bigger picture.

One of the BPCC’s strengths is that it has a regular influx of new members offering fresh perspectives to tap into, while The nomenclature of “Chamber of Commerce” is an internationally recognised brand which means it is at the forefront of companies’ minds when it comes to looking for trustworthy sources of business intelligence, and members benefit from being part of this credibility.

The companies which benefit most from being a Chamber member are those which are able to participate in the activities which we offer, identify the opportunities which inevitable arise, then be proactive in taking the appropriate actions. “We provide the opportunities; Members are encouraged to capitalise on the opportunities presented.”

Beyond networking many Members recognise the value of marketing opportunities by broadcasting their achievements in our newsletters, advertising on our website or annual directory, or sponsoring one of our many events.

Portuguese manufacturers and exporters wishing to break into the UK market use the Chamber’s “Commercial Introduction Service” where we conduct a thorough market research, identify potential clients or distributors, and arrange one-to-one meetings with the companies short-listed by our client. Trade shows which have proven to be popular with Portuguese exhibitors in recent years have included the construction sector, food & drink, hotel furnishing, fashion & textiles, interior design, gym and spa equipment and furnishings.

The Chamber measures its own success by the feedback we receive from our clients, and judging from the steady flow of rave testimonials the British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce remains as relevant today as it ever was.

Text and Photo
Essential Business

BPCC & PCCUK Algarve Gala

Over one hundred and twenty of the Algarve’s businessmen and women attended the British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce and the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce in the UK Algarve Gala last Friday, 23rd of November.

The joint event took place at the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, was kindly sponsored by Chamber members Quinta do Barranco Longo and Open Media, and had Mr Ross Matthews, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Lisbon, as guest of honour.

BPCC’s Chairman, Mr Filipe Lowndes Marques, welcomed the participants and introduced Mr Ross Matthews, who offered a comprehensive speech on several current topics, including BREXIT, as well UK’s wishes for 2019 in what the cooperation between these two countries is concerned.

Mr Simon Perks, Vice Chairman of the PCCUK, closed the event, stressing, much like BPCC’s Chairman had already done, how important these functions are for the region’s business community and for strengthening their relationships with the UK, which can be measured by the large number of attendees the event had.

Founded in 1911 and with over 400 members, the British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce is an independent, non-profit organization that sets out to promote the interests of its membership in respect to commercial links between businesses in the United Kingdom and Portugal.

Included in the Chamber’s annual events calendar, and providing a valuable meeting point for companies in the Algarve, are conferences, networking events and business breakfasts with selected speakers on relevant matters to the companies and the region’s economy.

To learn more about the BPCC and its work please visit

Chris Sainty

BPCC welcomes HM Ambassador to Portugal Mr. Chris Sainty

Chris Sainty Lunch

The BPCC welcomed the new British Ambassador to Portugal on December 6th with a celebratory lunch at the Intercontinental Hotel. The Chamber also took the opportunity to recognise and honour members who had been part of the BPCC for as many as 75 years.

The lunch was extremely well attended with member companies representing a wide array of industries including media, finance, marketing, legal, hospitality and tourism. The lunch provided attendees the opportunity not only to be part of welcoming HM Ambassador Mr. Chris Sainty to Portugal and honouring long standing members, but also to network and share business ideas with other members.

The Ambassador gave an excellent speech on the topic that is top of everyone’s mind; Brexit. His speech provided a unique insight into the current status of Brexit and why reaching an agreement at this stage was essential to Brexit’s success. His speech was also illuminating regarding the improbability that a second referendum could or would take place. Audience members asked the Ambassador to provide further insight on the hoped for benefits of Brexit in 2019 related to trade, and how ‘freedom of movement’ laws that allow EU citizens to freely move and work within the EU, would likely change.

Five different Chamber members were honoured for their long-standing partnership and support of the Chamber. Mr. Rui Miguel Guerreiro from ACCOUNTBOOK and Mr. Carlos Lilaia from Unicâmbio, received recognition for their five years of membership, while Mr. Tiago Ferreira de Lemos from PLEN ad Mr. Joao Mattamouros Resende from Cuatrecasas were recognized for their ten years of support.

The ultimate award was given to Mr. Pedro Oliveira from BP Portugal for 75 years of partnership with the Chamber. Mr. Oliveira inspired everyone in the audience by talking about how the Chamber had played an integral part of BP’s success in Portugal.

Other Chamber members had the opportunity to share stories at their tables regarding the business opportunities and access to other members that had been been available to them by their BPCC memberships.
Of course a big thank you goes to the Intercontinental for providing such an excellent lunch and venue, as well as to Chris Barton and his team for organising the event.

Welcome to Portugal Mr. Ambassador and Merry Christmas everyone.

List of all members which reached a milestone in 2018:

75 years Membership
BP Portugal – Comércio de Combustíveis e Lubrificantes S.A.01/06/1943
25 years Membership
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise01/07/1993
J. Plácido Santos & Associados01/08/1993
10 years Membership
RECONFINANCE-Gestão e Recuperação de Activos, S. A.16/01/2008
Vernon Soc. Med. Imobiliaria Lda19/02/2008
PortoSigns – Produtos Turístico e Culturais, Lda.25/03/2008
XPTO Events and DMC28/04/2008
PLEN – Sociedade de Advogados, RL22/07/2008
Ian McMahon Lda.29/07/2008
ACOQ Consulting, Lda.22/09/2008
QSP – Consultoria Marketing Lda.10/10/2008
Morgado Nora Velha, Prom. Imobiliária Turística Lda.15/10/2008
Martinhal Family Hotels & Resorts26/11/2008
Afonso H. O´Neill & Cia Lda.09/12/2008
5 years Membership
Advancefusion Lda.02/01/2013
ACCOUNTBOOK – Contabilidade & Assessoria Fiscal, Unip.18/02/2013
Unicâmbio – Instituição de Pagamento, S.A.08/04/2013
José Amorim Gomes Tradução & Interpretação Lda.20/06/2013
Lisbon Marriott Hotel15/07/2013
Gergran, Produtos Alimentares, Lda14/08/2013
Decade Development Management (DDM)19/09/2013
Texgoios – Indústria de Confecções Têxteis, SA19/09/2013
Meamstyle Lda20/09/2013
Austral – Comércio de Mobiliário de Cozinha Lda.01/10/2013
CC Homes – Real Estate01/10/2013
Taxlibris – Contabilidade e Consultoria, Lda.23/10/2013
Excellium Capital – Global Asset Investment Advisory08/11/2013
HC Studio Concept28/11/2013
Santos Camiseiros, Lda.06/12/2013
Freshmint Consulting12/12/2013

Text and photos:
Kaptiva Group

Sortford Logo

Free UK expansion support for Portuguese firms

stortford Business

Is your company seeking a base in the UK with excellent transport links to Europe? If so, Bishop’s Stortford is perfectly placed. Nearby Stansted Airport serves more European destinations than anywhere else in the UK. Plus, there are excellent transport links to London, Cambridge and beyond without the expense of a city centre location. Business Stortford has a free Welcome Programme to fast-track your company’s expansion to Bishop’s Stortford which includes: a customised fact-finding tour, commercial property search, recruitment and training support, free strategic consultancy, soft landing offers, free desk space for three months and one year’s complimentary membership of the Bishop’s Stortford Chamber of Commerce.

For more information, contact:
Andrew Figgis +44 (0) 1992 531 598 or Chris Smith +44 (0) 1992 531 581
visit for more information.

BPCC think-tank lunch – Define your value proposition

The BPCC think-tank meeting on November 12th was well attended and a tremendous success. The attendees represented a wide cross-section of business industries including real estate, business prospecting, food innovation, marketing, pricing strategy, business coaching, film production and more. A great deal of energy and enthusiasm was derived from the group’s ability to approach key business topics from different and valuable perspectives based on the nature of their own business focus.

Initially, the group launched into a debate on the importance of every business to be able to define its value proposition in relation to its customer or client audience. The group discussed how you have to go beyond just having a new product or service to sell, but to ensuring that the way your business is positioned in market resonates with it’s audience, is differentiated from the competition and can substantiate the claims that it makes regarding benefits and performance.

The group also focused on the importance of not only positioning your brand or business from the customer’s perspective but ensuring that the customers’ unique needs are taken into consideration. Talking to your audience before you launch was seen as an essential part of getting your value proposition right and making a success of your business.

A healthy exchange of ideas was also had around how best to sell within the Portuguese market and how being patient and waiting for business relationships to develop was essential. Unlike the UK, that makes very quick decisions regarding new business engagements, some of the Portuguese members of the group shared their thinking on how Portuguese businesses are more likely to take their time when making decisions on new initiatives and business partners, and one had to allow for a longer time line in realising new business.

The meal itself was exceptional and reflected the growing trend towards vegetarianism, and the main course was a delicious tagliatelle with a tomato cream-based sauce followed by a dessert of raspberries, ice cream and golden apple sponge cake.

Everyone left the event feeling that they had been given an excellent opportunity to access new business contacts and new ideas and knowledge to apply to their businesses.

Text: Janie Curtis

Why expand my UK business to Portugal?

There are many good reasons for UK based companies to expand to Portugal – take a look to see what’s most relevant for you; Quality of life, Stability, talent and education and many more….

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Visit to Vila Nova de Familacão

From 24th to 26th of October a delegation from Liverpool visited Villa Nova de Familacão for a comprehensive programme organised by the city’s municipality.

The British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce’s CEO, Chris Barton, accompanied the visiting delegation which included the textile lead from Liverpool Hope University; a fashion lead at Liverpool John Moores University – LJMU (who also wore an additional hat as a Director representing the Baltic Creative incubator); the Head of Liverpool’s Try and Lilly (one of the UK’s oldest hat makers who was also wearing an additional hat as a key stakeholder in Liverpool’s Fabric District); plus a manager from the Liverpool’s Fabric District’s Fashion Hub incubator; a Director from DoES Liverpool (Europe’s most successful maker space – wearable tech and nanotechnology); the owner of Virrata Ltd (helps clients improve operational efficiency and effectiveness); and finally 2 “Fashion Innovation” Masters students from LJMU.

The first full day started with a catch-up with the Mayor of VNF and 60 international students, followed by a visit to MADEIN and then a tour of a fashion/textile/digital related incubator setup. At this incubator we met 5 businesses including Burn Outline, Fashium, Kortex, Swonkie and IOTech. This incubator (INCUBAR) is interestingly managed and funded by a private business called Riopele – but in partnership the with Municipal Government. Founded in 1927, Riopele is one of the oldest textile companies in Portugal and an international reference in the creation and production of fabrics for fashion and clothing collections. This was followed by a visit to Riopele’s brand new large-scale photovoltaic setup and then to their Head Office. Following lunch, the group visited AAC Textiles (see below), then a visit to CITEVE (the Technological Centre for the Textile and Clothing Industries), and to their partner organisation CeNTI (Centre for Nanotechnology and Smart Materials). The festivities concluded with an event to celebrate VNF’s International Day and for us to witness the signing of an “Alliance” between a host of businesses, organisations, universities and the municipal government in Famalicão, but interestingly also from across the border into Galicia, Spain where the Mayor of the home of Zara, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Oysho, Pull and Bear, Stradivarius and Uterqüe joined us. We finished the evening with a working dinner with the visit’s organisers and with other members representatives from the board of the British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce.

What impressed all of us participating in this exchange was the sincerity of the collaboration between the municipality and the companies within their region. The sense of unity and togetherness with the common goal of promoting the region for the wellbeing of its population was almost tangible. In the days following the visit there has been a flurry of e.mail exchanges as a direct result of the new contacts made.

Upon his return to Liverpool Gary Millar, Liverpool’s Deputy Mayor, who was leading the mission enthusiastically reported back to his colleagues:
”… I can confirm that VNF is open for International relationships, for business, capacity building and student exchanges. They create and supply textiles and clothing and if you are looking for a new reliable supply chain they may be ideal partners. Flights to Porto are normally only 2.5 hours long and VNF is then only 20 minutes from the airport. The area is full of textile manufacturers, fabric and clothing suppliers, full turnaround specialists, innovators and testing agencies and all are based within 20 minutes of the airport. Therefore, they are close to home, are keen to do business with Liverpool and the city region, and because of this visit (and the International Business Festival back in June) we now have a very willing partner in the Mayor of VNF and his wonderful team. The Mayor advised me during the trip that they want to visit Liverpool in February 2019. Please contact me on [email protected] if you want to be involved in that visit or if you want to engage with those that we met in VNF between 24th and 26th October 2018.

About Riopele
Incorporating sustainable practices across the entire business, Riopele invests in the production of high-quality fabrics, based on natural, synthetic, artificial and recycled fibres, with great expertise in polyester/viscose/elastane blends. They currently create over 700,000 metres of fabric a month, employ over 1000 people and 2017’s turnover was 74 million Euros. They partner with some of the world’s leading fashion brands, Riopele offers a vertical textile production system that can meet the current demands of the fast-paced fashion industry. With 90 years of experience in fabric development, Riopele is also offering its customers a private label service, which allows combining fabric production and clothing manufacturing with customized deliveries. Our visit included a tour of their impressive R&D department where they are helping major brands create textiles and styles 2 years ahead! They are worth a visit for that alone. Have a look at their website at

About AAC Textiles
AAC has 30 years of experience in the production and sale of textiles. They design and develop high quality services tailored to the individual needs of their clients. They offer development; samples; costing and pricing; products; quality control; logistics and confidentiality. In short, the provide a full turnaround service for prototyping of clothing for world leading brands – sourcing most of their textiles, techniques and production within 50 km of their base. They work with men, women and children’s clothing, offering casual, sportswear, swimwear, ready-to-wear, signature and haute couture fashions. Their clients are British, German, Belgian, Spanish, French, North American and Swedish. I was convinced that some of the example products I seen must have been made in China were in fact fully produced in Portugal. They also lead the way in 3D patterned fabrics, embroidered clothing, flock, laser embellishments, etc. Have a look at, and for further examples of their expertise and services.

About CITEVE (the Technological Centre for the Textile and Clothing Industries)
CITEVE – The Technological Centre for the Textile and Clothing Industry of Portugal, is a private non-profit organization active since 1989 being a reference organization within the national and European scene, regarding research, innovation and technology transfer promotion for the Textile & Clothing Industry. CITEVE’s mission is to support the technical and technological development of the textile & clothing industry, promoting innovation and inducing new capacities and new competences as well as helping on the definition of industrial public policies. With facilities in Vila Nova de Famalicão and in Covilhã, and commercial delegations in Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Tunisia and Pakistan, CITEVE offers technological services of the highest level in different areas: Laboratorial activities, Technological consultancy & development, R&D + Innovation, Technology Watch, Product standards and certification, Training and Fashion intelligence. Since April 2017, CITEVE is the managing authority of the Portuguese Textile Cluster strengthening the engagement and cooperation with the T&C value chain. Check them out at and

About CeNTI (Centre for Nanotechnology and Smart Materials)
They create technology that works within clothing and create fabrics that save lives and sense things. Have a look at and for further details.

LISBON — Forget about London, Paris or Berlin for a minute.

The new place on the map for tech entrepreneurs in Europe is Lisbon, where they can live cheaply, take in views of the Atlantic Ocean — and jump on a train to citizenship in the European Union.

Geography, culture and the relatively benign costs of real estate and labor all play into Portugal’s boa-vida appeal — especially compared to London or Paris or, increasingly, upwardly mobile Berlin. Techies here can also count on serious support from the Portuguese government, which is eager to lure them in the wake of a blistering economic crisis.

In Europe’s race for tech talent, Lisbon has a wild card: a plan to offer residency, and eventually citizenship, for anyone who invests at least €1 million in the local economy, buys property worth €500,000 or creates 10 jobs. The passport-for-investment scheme has already drawn thousands of investors and has begun to catch on with the tech community. Its potential to draw talent from Brazil, for example, which is brimming with skilled programmers, gives Portugal an edge at a time when Brexit and new restrictions on immigration are increasingly problematic for London, Europe’s No. 1 tech destination.

“Lisbon cannot compete with Berlin in terms of its dimension, its territory, its history. And why should we?” — Graça Fonseca, Portugal’s secretary of state for administrative modernization”

So far, fewer than a dozen entrepreneurs, including some from the tech sector, have taken advantage of the passport-for-jobs option. But supporters expect numbers to go up now that numerous major companies, including some of the world’s tech giants, have opened branches in Lisbon during the last year.

And this growing list of firms opening tech offices marks only the beginning of what’s yet to come, officials say.

Graça Fonseca, Portugal’s secretary of state for administrative modernization and a longtime political companion of Prime Minister António Costa, laid out her vision of how Portugal would become a leading destination for entrepreneurs who want to develop applications for the public sector.

“What I say to [entrepreneurs] is ‘Listen, working solutions for public markets are global: What you can develop here in Portugal can go to Germany, London, Paris, wherever,’” she said in an interview at her office overseeing the Tagus River.

Locals, including Fonseca, have just one request for the newcomers flocking to Portugal: Please stop calling Lisbon “the new Berlin.”

“Lisbon cannot compete with Berlin in terms of its dimension, its territory, its history. And why should we?” she said. “Berlin doesn’t have what we have, and we don’t have what Berlin has.”
A man from Berlin

Lined with tattoo parlors and old-school car repair shops, the streets of Lisbon’s industrial Beato district — about an hour-and-a-half’s walk east from Fonseca’s office — look more Brooklyn than Berlin.

“All of this will be office spaces,” said Simon Schäfer, guiding a visitor through the gigantic upper floor of an industrial complex.

Turning a 12,000-square-meter factory in the heart of Beato, which once produced food for the Portuguese army, into a mega-campus for startups and global companies is the latest project for Schäfer, a 40-year-old German.

He arrived in 2016, when Costa’s administration poached him from Berlin, where he had already supervised the opening of two massive tech campuses. His main project is to build “StartUP Portugal,” an association overseeing the country’s strategy for entrepreneurship.

One of the first things Schäfer did was to put up billboards across the country that read “This is not the New Berlin.” It was his way of responding to visitors who kept asserting that Lisbon was about to just copy-paste the approach of Germany’s hip capital, which attracted creatives with cheap rents in the 2000s, followed by entrepreneurs in the 2010s.

Lisbon, however, offers its own unique selling points, he said.
Schäfer has worked worked with the German government and Berlin’s regional administration as well as the European Commission. But he says nothing compares to the support he gets from Costa’s current minority Socialist government in Portugal.

“Where else would it be possible for an association to literally have its office inside the economy ministry?” he said.

In the last two years a key aspect of his association’s strategy, besides fostering startups, was convincing the world’s tech giants to open up branches in Portugal, Schäfer said. This year alone, companies including American tech giant Google, German online retailer Zalando and carmaker Volkswagen all announced they were setting up local tech development centers.

When Mercedes-Benz followed suit in May, the company said the Portuguese capital is “currently becoming the ‘place to be’ in the digital world.”

The arrival of these major players “doesn’t just create jobs,” Schäfer said.

Their presence, “also has a spillover effect into the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” and helps to bring back some of the hundreds of thousands of people who left during the economic crisis.
Back on its feet

When Graça Fonseca, a sociologist by training, began oversight of economic growth and innovation in then-Mayor Costa’s office in 2009, Portugal had hit rock bottom. Unemployment was at more than 10 percent and kept rising until it peaked at near 18 percent in 2013.

“Really, the crisis was here,” she remembered. But, she said, Costa and his team managed to get Lisbon back on its feet, a success she hopes to replicate nationally.

The city lacked an economic strategy. One of the first measures taken was an international PR campaign promoting Lisbon abroad as a hub bridging Portuguese-speaking countries on three different continents.

But Fonseca was also aware that Lisbon’s depressed city center needed to be revived; besides boosting commerce and tourism, growing a tech scene there became a central pillar in their strategy.

“Now that Portugal is on the map for tech, the plan is to start bringing back some of those who left during the crisis.”

In 2011, the city launched an incubator called “Startup Lisboa” right in its troubled center. Slowly but steadily, a total of 280 startups moved into previously empty offices and shops, creating over 1,500 jobs.

A year later, the country also started to hand out “golden visas” to those who invest at least a million euros, buy real estate worth half a million or create at least 10 jobs in Portugal.

Since then, 6,369 residence permits, allowing people to travel freely within the Schengen area and to apply for full citizenship status after six years, have been issued, according to government statistics released in July. Only a tiny fraction of those — 11 visas — went to entrepreneurs, while the majority were given to real estate investors, primarily from China, prompting critics to warn that the program could be used for money laundering or tax evasion.

But supporters point to the almost €3.9 billion of foreign money the program has poured into Portugal since 2012. This investment, they say, helped foster growth in a country where banks still struggle with the heritage of bad loans and remain reluctant to lend money, particularly to young companies. And they are confident the number of entrepreneurial visas will soon go up, now that big players have arrived in Lisbon.

In 2016, Lisbon also managed to lure Europe’s largest tech event, the Web Summit, away from Dublin for at least three years. In the same year, when the U.K. — the EU’s No. 1 tech destination — voted to leave the bloc, the Portuguese government was quick to set up a task force called “Portugal In” to attract foreign investment. In 2017 alone, British investment in the country grew more than fivefold to €750 million from €140 million in 2016, according to government data.

Numbers suggest the measures — along with a boom in tourism and exports, traditionally the backbone of the economy — are paying off: Growth is currently estimated at 2.6 percent, its fastest since 2000. Unemployment is down to 6.7 percent, the lowest in 16 years.
Bringing them home.

Now that Portugal is on the map for tech, the plan is to start bringing back some of those who left during the crisis.

It’s impossible to state exactly how many people joined the exodus, partly because many who left to other EU countries never notified authorities that they were moving. However, experts estimate that nearly half a million people left Portugal between 2011 and 2014 — the country’s largest emigration in 50 years.

The government is determined to make it as easy as possible for them to resettle.

“We were surprised how fast the process was, and not only that — people also helped us a lot,” said Ricardo Rodrigues, the director of the new Lisbon office of mycujoo, a tech startup providing livestream services to soccer clubs and associations around the world.

Launched by Portuguese founders four years ago in Zurich, the firm later opened offices in the Netherlands and Singapore. When they decided to add a location in Lisbon earlier this year, their main concern was finding tech-savvy talent.

But within weeks, applications were pouring in. And government-run agencies quickly helped them find an office in a co-working space near Lisbon’s iconic 25th of April bridge.

“The government [is providing] very good conditions,” Rodrigues said.

Mycujoo now has plans to further expand in Portugal, not least because its founders are Portuguese and because salaries and fixed costs are lower than at any of the company’s other locations.

At the end of the day, it’s not just money that helps companies to attract talent, Rodrigues added as he stood on the rooftop of the complex where mycujoo’s offices are located.

“People don’t only look for a salary at the end of the months,” he said, blinded by the sun reflecting in the Atlantic Ocean, “It’s also about whether they can have a good quality of life.”

CLARIFICATION: This article was updated to clarify the scope of Simon Schäfer’s latest project in Lisbon.

Janosch Delcker/POLITICO

Participanets BrainStorming Lunch

Defining Luxury in the context of the Algarve – A growing market?

“Defining Luxury in the context of the Algarve – A growing market?” That was the question we posed to our think-tank panel comprising a cross section of entrepreneurs from different areas of expertise.

The discussion evolved towards what can indeed be considered as “luxury”, and trying to define luxury products and services (and its different definitions from time to time): it is no longer associated to high prices or even to the word “luxury” (which by definition, when used, is never applicable), but rather to exclusivity concepts of products and services that are unique, exquisite and exclusive.

Some participants argued that the luxury real estate locations are no longer the ones that are nearby golf courses (which prices are decreasing due to increase of offer) but being near to other services such as international schools. It was argued as well that under real estate, per example, luxury nowadays may not be considered in having a house in a tourist resort, but rather in a secluded location without any surrounding neighbors.

At the end, all agreed that what defined luxury service or product as well is the quality and detail in its providing, and agreed that the Algarve continues to be a luxury destination as it has fantastic products and services (compared to our sister Spain), although we do not know how to promote it as well as they do.

This brainstorming lunch confronted these polemic themes and ultimately the discussion entered into other aspects regarding the difficulties in the promotion of the Algarve as luxury destination, such as Associations with short budget (or misuse of budget), the lack of the flights to Faro, and the enormous bureaucracy of local entities.

All agreed that mentalities would have to change, in order to continue to promote the Algarve as a luxury destination, and that these types of meetings are always beneficial to achieve such purpose.

The true objective of these events is to allow all the participants to express themselves openly which inevitably connects them to others “on the same wavelength”.  The role of the Chamber is to provide this conduit and facilitate bonding so that subsequent collaborations might flourish.  We believe we  achieved our expectations.

Participants included Kurt Gillig (VILA VITA Parc Resort & Spa), Miguel Sousa (Quinta do Lago, S.A.), Paulo Apolónia (Apolónia Supermercados), Paulo Fernandes (David Rosas), Daniel Henderson (Blevins Franks Financial Management), Judy Clayton (Dunas Lifestyle), Bruce Hawker and Fernando Caetano (Open Media Group), Greg Boegner (Portugal Confidential), Dietmar Goetz (Look Algarve TV), and Carmen Baptista Rosa (PLMJ Advogados SP RL).

The BPCC organizes several brainstorming think-tank lunches each year for a maximum of 18 invited participants.  Previous themes have included “How to influence consumer choice”, “Communication is more than just words and images” “What can Portugal do to help the survival rate of start-ups?” and “Ladies of Influence”

These lunches provide a convivial setting for a forum where like-minded businesspeople can explore the possibilities of developing mutually beneficial synergies.

Members wishing to be invited to future editions of these brainstorming lunches should contact Chris Barton on [email protected].  Suggestions for themes are also welcome.


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