Brexit and Portugal: the coping strategies of a small Euro-Atlantic state

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The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union poses important new challenges to smaller European countries and, necessarily, for Europe’s role in the world. Insights from the literature on small states point to the detrimental effects Brexit could have on the ‘shelter’ and ‘platform’ benefits European integration offers to smaller EU members. That literature also provides clues about the strategies small EU countries are likely to pursue in order to better meet the challenges stemming from Brexit. This paper examines such challenges and coping strategies, moving the attention to EU foreign policy endogenous dynamics. The focus is on the case of Portugal, a country often neglected by the comparative literature on small EU states and EU studies in general. Portugal is a committed EU member, being part of the Schengen and Euro areas as well as supporting advances in foreign and security cooperation. Yet, the small Iberian country also has a historical alliance with Britain, sharing with it an Atlanticist outlook and important socio-economic ties. This ambivalent foreign policy orientation and diversity of interests at stake, amid uncertain transatlantic relations, makes Portugal’s case interesting for pursuing the objectives of this research, which findings will contribute to the literature on EU foreign policy, smaller EU states, and Portuguese foreign policy.

Keywords: European Union, Brexit, small states, Portugal, foreign policy

António Raimundo | CICP-UMinho, CEI-IUL & Laura Ferreira-Pereira | CICP-UMinho

António Raimundo is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Research Centre in Political Science from University of Minho and Associate Fellow at the Centre for International Studies from ISCTE-IUL. Previously he was Invited Assistant Professor in International Relations at ISCTE-IUL. He holds a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics. His main research areas are: EU foreign policy, foreign policy of small states, Portuguese foreign policy, Europeanisation, Europe-Africa relations.


Laura C. Ferreira-Pereira is a Full Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Minho. Since 2012 she has been a Visiting Professor at the University of São Paulo. She has a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. Professor Laura has lectured (by request) at universities and think tanks in Germany, Brazil, Cape Verde, China, Italy, Poland and Romania. She is a founding member of the European International Studies Association.