All posts by Francisco Marques Pereira

(NYT) Julian Assange Indicted Under Espionage Act, Raising First Amendment Issues


Though Julian Assange is not a conventional journalist, much of what he does at WikiLeaks is difficult to distinguish in a legally meaningful way from what traditional news organizations do.CreditJack Taylor/Getty Images

Though Julian Assange is not a conventional journalist, much of what he does at WikiLeaks is difficult to distinguish in a legally meaningful way from what traditional news organizations do.CreditCreditJack Taylor/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks leader, has been indicted on 17 new counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in obtaining and publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the Justice Department announced on Thursday — a novel case that raises profound First Amendment issues.

The new charges were part of an expanded indictment obtained by the Trump administration that significantly raised the stakes of the legal case against Mr. Assange, who is already fighting extradition proceedings in London based on an earlier hacking-related count brought by federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia.

The secret documents that Mr. Assange published were provided by the former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who was convicted at a court-martial trial in 2013 of leaking the records. The indictment accuses Mr. Assange of complicity in Ms. Manning’s leaks, saying he solicited unauthorized disclosures of classified information and encouraged her over several months.

[Press freedoms and the case against Julian Assange, explained.]

“Assange, WikiLeaks affiliates and Manning shared the common objective to subvert lawful restrictions on classified information and to publicly disseminate it,” the indictment said.

Justice Department officials sought to minimize the constitutional implications of the new indictment. They noted in a briefing with reporters that most of the new charges against Mr. Assange were related to his obtaining of the archives of documents, as opposed to their publication.

The three charges that squarely addressed Mr. Assange’s publication of government secrets were focused on a handful of files that contained the names of people who had provided information to the United States in dangerous places like the Afghanistan and Iraq war zones, and authoritarian states like China, Iran, and Syria.

But the officials would not engage with questions about how the actions they said were felonies by Mr. Assange differed from ordinary investigative journalism. Notably, The New York Times, among many other news organizations, obtained precisely the same archives of documents from WikiLeaks, without authorization from the government.

Barry J. Pollack, a lawyer for Mr. Assange, said his client was being charged with a crime “for encouraging sources to provide him truthful information and for publishing that information.” That dramatic step, he said, removed the “fig leaf” that the case about his client was only about hacking.

“These unprecedented charges demonstrate the gravity of the threat the criminal prosecution of Julian Assange poses to all journalists in their endeavor to inform the public about actions that have taken by the U.S. government,” he said.Video2:54Julian Assange: Friend and Foe to Left and RightOver the years, the WikiLeaks founder has been embraced by everyone from Lady Gaga to Sean Hannity. But he’s also made enemies along the way. Our video shows how his anti-secrecy agenda has attracted, and repelled, people across the political spectrum.CreditCreditAndrew Testa for The New York Times

For most of American history, it was rare to treat the leaking of government secrets to the news media as a crime. But starting under the Bush administration, the Justice Department began making much more routine use of the Espionage Act to go after officials who provided information to the public through reporters, as opposed to actual spies. The World War I-era law criminalizes the disclosure of potentially damaging national security secrets to someone not authorized to receive them.

On its face, the Espionage Act could also be used to prosecute reporters who publish government secrets. But many legal scholars believe that prosecuting people for acts related to receiving and publishing information would violate the First Amendment. That notion has never been tested in court, however, because until now the government has never brought such charges.

Though he is not a conventional journalist, much of what Mr. Assange does at WikiLeaks is difficult to distinguish in a legally meaningful way from what traditional news organizations like The New York Times do: seek and publish information that officials want to be secret, including classified national security matters, and take steps to protect the confidentiality of sources.

The Obama administration had also weighed charging Mr. Assange, but rejected that step out of fears that it would chill investigative journalism and could be struck down as unconstitutional. A Justice Department official declined to address whether there was any new evidence that had come to light recently or whether the Trump administration had simply decided to take a step the Obama administration had shied away from.

The evidence laid out in the indictment against Mr. Assange mapped onto information presented by military prosecutors in the 2013 court-martial trial of Ms. Manning. Prosecutors in her case also alleged that her actions endangered the people whose names were revealed in the documents when Mr. Assange published them, though they presented no evidence that anyone was killed as a result.

A Justice Department official declined to say whether any such evidence now exists, but stressed that prosecutors would only need to prove in court what they say in the indictment: that publication put people in danger.

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Ms. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison — by far the longest punishment for a leak case in American history. But in one of his last acts in office, former President Barack Obama commuted most of the remainder of her sentence in January 2017.

She is now back in jail again, after a judge held her in contempt for refusing to testify about her interactions with Mr. Assange before the grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia that indicted him.

Mr. Assange was previously indicted in March 2018 in federal court in Alexandria, Va., on a charge of conspiring to commit unlawful computer intrusion. Prosecutors accused Mr. Assange of agreeing to help Ms. Manning crack an encoded portion of a passcode that would have enabled her to log on to a classified military network.

That charge was unveiled in April, when Mr. Assange was arrested in London after being dragged out of the Ecuadorean Embassy, where he had resided for years to avoid capture. The United States has asked Britain to extradite Mr. Assange, who is fighting it, and the filing of the new charges clears the way for British courts to weigh whether it would be lawful to transfer custody of him to a place where he will face Espionage Act charges.

(Politico) Portugal eyes big EU cash prize


As maneuvers for Commission jobs begin, Lisbon angles for high-spending regional portfolio.

Photo-illustration by POLITICO/Source images by Getty

In the post-election battle for top EU jobs, Portugal is eyeing a portfolio with a big pot of cash.

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa has targeted the regional policy post for his country’s next European commissioner — the job that oversees some of the EU’s biggest spending programs.

Costa’s plan reflects the fact that EU governments are looking beyond this week’s European Parliament election and have already been maneuvering to claim posts in the next European Commission, due to take office on November 1.

Costa signaled his intentions by putting former Planning and Infrastructure Minister Pedro Marques at the head of his Socialist Party’s list for the European Parliament election.

Few believe that Marques was moved from his Cabinet post in February just to become an MEP. On the contrary, his old ministerial portfolio makes him well qualified for a similar role at EU level.

Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa with Socialist candidate Pedro Marques | Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

“The prime minister has a clear interest in the cohesion funds’ portfolio and Pedro Marques is a potential candidate for the job,” a Portuguese government official told POLITICO. “Marques’ European ambition is well known. He had the funds’ portfolio in government. And his experience is an advantage for getting the job.”

Costa’s plan, first reported by newspaper Público, would put the Portuguese commissioner in charge of cohesion programs, intended to boost infrastructure and help poorer parts of Europe develop economically. Under current Commission plans, cohesion policy would account for some €330 billion in the EU’s next long-term budget from 2021-2027. That would make it the single biggest slice of the budget, about a third of the total, taking over the top position long held by agriculture.

Such spending is particularly valuable to Portugal. Since joining the European Union, the country has benefited from over €100 billion in EU cohesion funds. Between 2015 and 2017, Portugal was the EU country most dependent on cohesion funding, which made up over 84 percent of total public investment in the country.

But taking the regional policy job also carries significant risks. The current Commission has proposed cutting overall cohesion spending by about 12 percent in the next budget cycle and some countries will suffer much steeper losses.

Marques could find himself as the frontman for unpopular cuts in a range of countries — including his own. Portugal faces a reduction of 7 percent in cohesion funding under the Commission’s blueprint, which has not yet been approved by EU leaders or the European Parliament.

“We are not happy with the proposal of the Commission for Portugal,” Margarida Marques, vice president of the Portuguese parliament’s committee on European affairs, told POLITICO.

By pushing for a Portuguese regional policy commissioner, Costa may be hoping to influence how regional funds are spent in the future.

‘Fake candidate’

On paper, at least, Marques is a strong candidate for the regional policy post, currently held by Corina Crețu of Romania. He has spent more than two decades in public office, renegotiated Portugal’s structural and cohesion funds in the current multiannual program — called Portugal 2020 — and started discussions on the upcoming period between 2021 and 2027.

He “is someone who has a deep knowledge of the European institutions and has worked with them in the areas of the European Social Fund, the ERDF [European Regional Development Fund] or the cohesion funds,” said Costa when he presented Marques as his party’s lead candidate for the EU election in February.

But the fact that Marques is being tipped as a commissioner while ostensibly running for a seat in the European Parliament has injected extra controversy into the election campaign.

In a televised debate, Paulo Rangel, the lead candidate of the center-right Social Democrats (PSD), called Marques “a fake candidate for the European Parliament.”

“He does not want to go to the European Parliament, he wants to go to the Commission,” Rangel declared.

Pedro Marques at a rally of the campaign for the European elections in Funchal, Portugal, May 19, 2019 | Gregorio Cunha/EPA via EFE

Rangel has called on Costa to keep Research, Science and Innovation Commissioner Carlos Moedas as the country’s representative in the Commission. Moedas is a senior member of the PSD.

Rangel has also taken aim at a video recorded by Romania’s Crețu that praises Marques. In the two-minute video, she declares: “I must say that Pedro Marques is also a great negotiator. He was a fierce defender of cohesion policy funds always having in mind the general interests of Europe and, of course, of Portugal.”

The video raised questions about whether Crețu adhered to the Commission’s code of conduct in recording a video used by a fellow center-left politician in his election campaign. The Commission insisted everything was in order and the message was simply meant “to highlight the good cooperation between the European Commission and the Portuguese authorities.”

But Rangel seized on the video to argue the Portuguese Socialist was only too willing to accept funding cuts from Brussels.

“She just has to say thank you. Pedro Marques accepted a decrease of 7 percent in structural funds. What any commissioner wants is a minister who does not create problems,” he said.

Marques himself has not confirmed Costa’s plan to put him in the regional policy job. But he has done little to discourage speculation in that direction.

“Our prime minister has already said that he sees this as a good portfolio for Portugal in the next European Commission, but this question is not yet on the table,” he said at a recent meeting with foreign reporters in Lisbon.

“However, if my party gained more strength in the European elections in Portugal, my prime minister in the European Council — and above all in the negotiations with our political family — would have a stronger hand in the choice of portfolios in the European Commission,” he added.

Costa’s party is on course to record a good result in the election, which would increase its stature in the center-left group in the European Parliament.

According to latest polls, the Socialists lead with around 33 percent support, compared to about 28 percent for the PSD. That would give them nine seats in the Parliament — an increase of one on the last election — while the PSD would have one fewer.

Plan B … and C?

Marques was not the only minister who switched from government to the Socialists’ election list in a February reshuffle. Maria Manuel Leitão Marques, formerly the minister responsible for modernizing public administration, is also running in the European election and could serve as a back-up option for a Commission post.

In an interview with Público, Leitão Marques did not confirm if she would like to be a commissioner — but she did say she would like very much to “modernize the European Union’s administration.”

Calls for gender parity in top EU jobs could work in Leitão Marques’ favor.

Former Portuguese Minister of the Presidency and Administrative Modernization Maria Manuel Leitão Marques (L) with European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas | José Sena Goulão/EPA via EFE

“Leitão Marques ticks all the boxes as Plan B. Not only does she have credibility for her work as minister, she is also a woman. If Portugal is pressed to present a woman as commissioner in negotiations, she would be a plus within a gender equality agenda,” the government official told POLITICO.

Meanwhile, Costa himself has played down suggestions he could be a secret Plan C. The prime minister has won admirers across Europe’s center left and beyond for building an unconventional but stable coalition, leading Portugal out of economic crisis and regularly outmaneuvering the opposition — as he did in a recent row over teachers’ pay.

A recent Financial Times story said he could be a surprise contender for a top EU job. But at an EU summit in Sibiu, Romania, earlier this month, Costa said he intends to continue in his current role as prime minister.

“It is very flattering, but I am not a candidate for anything other than the functions I hold in Portugal,” he said.

(EP) Nadie habla de nacionalismos ni de inmigrantes en Portugal

(EP) Tras años de crisis e intervenciones de la troika, el país acude a votar reconciliado con la UE

João Ferreira, cabeza de lista de CDU (Coalición de PC más Los Verdes) reparte su programa electoral en Montijo.
João Ferreira, cabeza de lista de CDU (Coalición de PC más Los Verdes) reparte su programa electoral en Montijo. TIAGO PETINGA EFE

Portugal no es país de extremismos, no en vano hizo una revolución con claveles y sin muertos. Desde aquel 1974 ha soportado con resignación tres intervenciones internacionales para salvar financieramente al país, la última (2011-14) con sacrificios brutales. La llegada del Partido Socialista al Gobierno hace cuatro años ha recuperado la confianza de sus ciudadanos, la de Bruselas y la de la depauperada familia internacional. El resultado es que los portugueses llegan a estas elecciones amando Europa como casi nunca, pero más pendientes de sus elecciones legislativas de octubre.

El socialista António Costa, primer ministro de Portugal, abrió la campaña europea con un apoyo al presidente francés Emmanuel Macron. “Es el cambio progresista necesario para el renacimiento europeo”, le dijo. Acto seguido arremetió contra los partidos de centroderecha europeos y de Portugal. El primer ministro en estado puro: Costa haciéndose querer a la vez por las fuerzas europeas de centro y por la izquierda portuguesa. El dirigente, que gobierna desde 2015 con el apoyo de los partidos de izquierda, tiene un ojo puesto en las elecciones europeas de este domingo y otro en las legislativas de octubre.


El guiño a uno y otro lado solivianta a uno de sus socios parlamentarios, el Bloco de Esquerda. “El PS defiende aquí la jerigonza [gobierno socialista minoritario con apoyo parlamentario del Bloco y PC], pero en Europa no es con quien se alía normalmente”, reacciona Marisa Matías, candidata europea del Bloco. “Es un mensaje muy equívoco”.

Costa no tiene ninguna intención de abandonar la internacional socialista, su objetivo es atraer electorado del centro portugués, absolutamente desnortado, ahora y en octubre, sobre todo. Días después, en el mitin de Magualde, Costa fue acompañado por Frans Timmermans, candidato socialista a la presidencia de la Comisión Europea. En ese acto, atacó sin ambages al candidato conservador Manfred Weber, del Partido Popular Europeo, de quien recordó que había propugnado sanciones contra Portugal.

Para demostrar que Costa está con casi todos -“An amazing man”, según Timmermans-, ha recibido mensajes de apoyo del mismo Macron y del griego Alexis Tsipras, simpatizante de Podemos y del mismo Bloco. Esa habilidad de querer y ser querido por unos y por otros ha hecho de Portugal, en sus cuatro años de Gobierno, un escenario absolutamente singular en Europa, y un referente de una vía alternativa y socialista para salir de las crisis.

Sin llegar a ser el mar Muerto, Portugal (con 10 millones de habitantes) sí que es una balsa de aceite entre un panorama europeo de inquietantes incertidumbres. Respecto a 2014, ni siquiera han cambiado las cabezas de cartel en cuatro de las cinco principales candidaturas. La excepción es del PS, que ha colocado a un anodino exministro, Pedro Marques, destinado a ser comisario europeo.

Respecto a 2014, ni siquiera han cambiado las cabezas de cartel en cuatro de las cinco principales candidaturas. Tampoco los sondeos aventuran cambios.

Las mismas encuestas pronostican unos resultados con tendencias similares a los de hace un lustro. En aquel mayo, aún con la troika en el país, venció el PS (31,5% de los votos y 8 parlamentarios), seguido de la coalición gobernante de centroderecha (PSD-CDS, (27,7% y 7), la coalición del PC con Verdes, CDU (12,7% y 3), la coalición Partido da Terra (7,1% y 2) y Bloco de Esquerda (BE), con el 4,6% de los votos emitidos y un diputado.

Ultranacionalismo y emigración, temas centrales de la campaña en otros países, no existen en Portugal. Nacionalismo no hay más que uno, el portugués; e inmigrantes, aunque se les desea, llegan pocos y se quedan menos. Solo el 4% de la población residencial es extranjera.

Rechazo al Ejército común europeo

Incluso en desacuerdo están de acuerdo los cinco principales partidos en la única cuestión de relevancia que ha saltado en esta campaña: el Ejército común europeo. Nadie lo quiere aunque por diferentes motivos, unos porque creen que no hace falta la defensa de nadie y otros porque quieren que les defiendan los Estados Unidos vía OTAN.

Los euroescépticos de las anteriores elecciones, ahora callan o son eurofans. “La moneda única no tiene salvación”, decía hace solo tres años el santón económico del Bloco Francisco Louçã. Hoy su cabeza de cartel Marisa Matías afirma rotundamente que su partido jamás estuvo contra el euro. Y el PCE arrincona su vieja pretensión de salir de la CE, por supuesto también del euro y de la OTAN. Piensen lo que piensen, callan porque ahora el Portugalexit no da votos.

Si hoy hubiera un referéndum de permanencia, el 77% de los portugueses votaría a favor (68% la media europea), según el Eurobarómetro de febrero. El 82% considera que el país se beneficia con la integración, apenas el 10% está en contra, récord europeo.

Pero una cosa es abrazar Europa y otra acudir a las urnas. En 2014 apenas votó el 33,5% del censo y en el caso de los jóvenes la abstención rondó el 80%. En febrero, apenas el 17% de la población aseguraba que votaría. El lunes, el líder de Basta, un nuevo partido de tintes populistas, prefirió participar en una tertulia de fútbol antes que en un debate electoral de la televisión pública. En Portugal se vota más en las elecciones del Benfica.

(Politico) Portugal’s lonely populists

(Politico) The far right is making little headway ahead of the EU election.

Almost unique in Europe, Portuguese politics looks determinedly old-school. | OOctavio Passos/Getty Images

AGUALVA-CACÉM, Portugal — The populist wind blowing across Europe seems to have run out of puff in western Portugal.

A new radical-right party pledging to shake up Portuguese politics went campaigning in the streets of this blue-collar city late last week. By the time the party leader arrived, just 14 people had turned up.

Still, the Basta! (“Enough!”) party supporters gamely waved flags and handed out pamphlets to commuters heading home after the 30-minute train ride from downtown Lisbon.

The response was muted. “I’m only taking one because he’s for Benfica,” grinned one senior citizen pointing to a photo of party leader André Ventura, a TV football pundit known for his outspoken backing of the Lisbon club.

A week before Sunday’s European Parliament election, there was little sign Basta was poised to overcome Portugal’s immunity to the nationalist politics that have surged across much of Europe, reaching neighboring Spain this year with the emergence of Vox as a force in regional and national elections.

“Anti-party, anti-immigrant, Euroskeptic sentiments exist in Portugal, they are there to be exploited” — Marina Costa Lobo, political scientist at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon

Polls put Basta among 10 small parties of various stripes seen sharing around 5 percent of the vote on May 26. The People-Animals-Nature party is the non-mainstream outfit most likely to send a representative or two to the Parliament.

Almost unique in Europe, Portuguese politics looks determinedly old-school.

The governing Socialist Party (PS) is riding high with 33 percent in the latest poll. It’s surfing a wave of bright economic data that Prime Minister António Costa hopes will also carry him to reelection in October’s parliamentary election.

“Sunday’s vote will be a referendum on the success of this government,” Carlos César, the PS party president, told a rally at the weekend. “These elections will confirm the PS as the biggest party in Portugal and the biggest democratic socialist party in all of Europe.”

PS President Carlos César at the Portuguese parliament in Lisbon | Tiago Petinga/EPA

Trailing on 23 percent is the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the main center-right opposition. Leader Rui Rio faced down a leadership challenge in January but has failed to significantly dent Costa’s lead. Another conservative group, the CDS-People’s Party, is polling around 8 percent.

The Left Bloc (BE) and the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), which prop up Costa’s minority government in the national parliament, are resuming their habitual battle for the far-left vote. Polls suggest the BE will nose ahead on 9 percent.

Despite their poll invisibility, the rightists put on an enthusiastic show in Agualva-Cacém.

“Look, I’ve got two flags, two flags!” exclaimed one youthful supporter at the Basta event as he chatted with a companion sporting a trim navy blazer, tan chinos and the blue-and-white badge of the People’s Monarchist Party, a decades-old micro-party that has joined Ventura’s right-wing coalition.

They drew curious looks from the dreadlocked teens, women selling snacks of crispy pork rind from plastic buckets and other locals outside the railway station in this ethnically diverse city.

Ventura said the small scale of his campaign gathering was tactical. “We’ve opted for smaller caravans, that way we can get out and meet people,” he told POLITICO. “You should come tomorrow to Leiria (a central city), they’ll be hundreds.”

Resistance to the far right

The emergence of Vox in Spain means Portugal, Ireland, Luxembourg and Malta are the only European Union nations without an electorally significant force to the right of traditional center-right or conservative parties.

Myriad theories seek to explain Portugal’s resistance to the populist surge: from memories of dictatorship and colonial war under the right-wing authoritarian regime that ran the country for 48 years up to 1974; to the small numbers of refugees or Muslim immigrants; or the continued strength of the PCP among working-class voters.

“Anti-party, anti-immigrant, Euroskeptic sentiments exist in Portugal, they are there to be exploited,” said Marina Costa Lobo, political scientist at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon. “They just haven’t been politicized.”

“It’s about time we had a party in Portugal telling things how they are” — André Ventura, Basta Party leader

Politicians promising to make Portugal great again, however, can expect slim pickings in “a country that is more aware of its dimension” than some others in Europe, she added.

Eurobarometer surveys place the Portuguese among the Europeans with most trust in the EU, despite widespread discontent over austerity policies introduced after the country received a €78 billion bailout from the EU and International Monetary Fund in 2011.

The Socialists’ lead candidate in Sunday’s election said his government’s pro-growth policies since 2015 also explain the lack of support for right-wing populism.

“Policies that show there are alternatives to austerity have clearly brought results in my country and if they are projected on a wider European level, they can help avoid this right-wing extremism and this populism,” Pedro Marques told foreign correspondents in Lisbon.

Leader of the Socialist Party (PS) list for the European election Pedro Marques (L) with Prime Minister and Secretary-General of the Socialist Party, Antonio Costa (C), during a meeting with voters as part of the campaign for the European election in downtown Coimbra, Portugal, May 17, 2019 | Miguel A. Lopes/EPA via EFE

The Portuguese Socialists hope success on Sunday — in what’s expected to be a tough day elsewhere for Europe’s center-left — will increase their country’s influence.

With Finance Minister Mário Centeno already installed as president of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, Costa is eyeing a high-profile European Commission position for one of his own. Marques has been mentioned as a possible regional policy commissioner.

Meanwhile, on the far-right, Ventura also plans a bit of European networking. He told POLITICO his party will “probably” be meeting soon with Vox and is building bridges with Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy.

“It’s about time we had a party in Portugal telling things how they are,” he said. “We’ve been sleeping, but I think Portugal will wake up in this European election.”

The Basta lead candidate said he is confident of winning a seat in the European Parliament but just in case, he appears to be taking care to protect the day job. Last week, Ventura pulled out of a national TV debate with other candidates as it clashed with his regular TV football show on a rival channel.

(EP) Portugal, primer país de la zona euro que emite deuda en moneda china

(EP) El objetivo es entrar en un mercado con gran liquidez

El primer ministro luso, Carlos Costa, con el presidente chino, Xi Jinping.
El primer ministro luso, Carlos Costa, con el presidente chino, Xi Jinping. LUSA

Portugal será el primer país de la Zona euro en emitir deuda en moneda china tras recibir la autorización de aquel país, según ha confirmado el secretario de Estado de Finanzas, Ricardo Mourinho.

Portugal -que ya emite deuda en euros y dólares- realizará una emisión a tres años de 2.000 millones de renminbi, equivalente a 260 millones de euros. La emisión comenzará la próxima semana y a un coste aún sin cerrar, aunque se prevé que sea algo superior a lo que se paga en las emisiones en euros (en torno a -0,222%).

Aunque el importe es bajo, la autorización permite realizar en el futuro otras de mayor alcance. “El objetivo es estar en un mercado de gran dimensión y de mucha liquidez y así ampliar la base de inversores”, ha declarado Mourinho al diario Eco.

China es el primer inversor extra comunitario en Portugal, con participaciones clave en sectores como la electricidad, el agua, los bancos, los seguros o la sanidad. Recientemente, vio frustrada la opa para hacerse con el 100% de EDP, la principal eléctrica portuguesa, en donde posee una participación del 25%.

En la última visita del presidente chino a Portugal, en diciembre del pasado año, firmó con António Costa, primer ministro portugués un acuerdo para participar en la nueva ‘ruta de la seda’, la red de transporte desde China a Europa, con la participación del puerto marítimo de Sines.

(Express) Brexit Party set to make European elections HISTORY – largest share of UK vote in 25 YEARS

(Express) NIGEL FARAGE’S Brexit Party is set to make history by commanding the largest share of the UK vote in the European elections for 25 years.

The grassroots eurosceptic party, led by Nigel Farage, is polling at a huge 37 percent in the latest YouGov poll for The Times of 3,864 British adults from May 19-21 – likely to be one of the last key indicators before the British public cast their vote. If this is reflected at the ballot box, the figure would be the largest ever achieved by a non-mainstream political party in the European elections. It would also be the highest since the Labour Party romped to victory with 42.6 percent of the overall vote at the European elections in 1994.

Ahead of tomorrow’s election, the Brexit Party is also forecast to trump the victory of Ukip in the 2014 election by almost 10 percent.

Ukip, of which Mr Farage was leader during that campaign, was the most supported Party in the EU vote, having a gained 27.4 percent and 24 seats.

A 37 percent share of the vote is likely to get around 40 Brexit Party MEPs into the European Parliament and pile pressure on Theresa May.

If the polls are correct, the Brexit Party will exceed the 27 percent and 26.7 percent the Tories won with in the 2009 and 2004 elections respectively.

european elections farage brexit party

European elections: Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is on course to make history (Image: GETTY)

But the wave of support for Mr Farage is set to come a long way short of the record, where the Tories under Margret Thatcher received a mammoth 48.4 percent share of the vote in the first ever European elections in 1979.

The latest YouGov poll put the Liberal Democrats are a distant second on 19 percent, with Labour falling to 13 percent and the Greens increasing to 12 percent.

The Prime Minister is facing yet further humiliation, with just seven percent of those polled saying they would vote for the Conservative Party.

The previous poll from YouGov, which surveyed more 7,192 British adults from May 12-16, also had the Brexit Party well ahead of its rivals on 35 percent.

The Liberal Democrats were on 16 percent, closely followed by Labour (15 percent), Green Party (10 percent) and Conservatives (nine percent).


european elections voting

European elections: The Brexit Party’s support has surged over recent weeks (Image: EXPRESS)

We’ve managed in five and a half weeks not just to frighten the establishment – oh no, they’re not frightened, they’re absolutely terrified

Nigel Farage

Last night, the Brexit Party vowed a victory in the European elections would “only be the beginning” of a revolution that could rock Westminster.

At a rally in London that organisers said attracted a huge 3,000 supporters, Mr Farage roared the Brexit Party had the establishment “terrified”.

He warned victory for the Brexit Party could end the leaderships of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn.

The former Ukip leader told the jubilant crowd: “We have managed in five and a half weeks to go to the head of the opinion polls.

“We’ve managed in five and a half weeks not just to frighten the establishment – oh no, they’re not frightened.

“They’re absolutely terrified.

european elections brexit party

European elections: Ann Widdecombe had a defiant message for the Brexit Party supporters (Image: AFP / GETTY)

“We’ve managed to give millions and millions of people in this country who were frustrated, upset and angry to the point of saying they may never engage with the democratic process again, so sick to death were they with the shenanigans in Westminster – we’ve given them hope, optimism and belief in this country and in the democratic process.”

Former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe, who only joined the Brexit Party last month, also had a defiant warning for the Government.

She said: “Either let Britain leave the EU or we’ll make sure you leave Westminster.

“Thursday is not the end. It’s the beginning of bringing true democracy back to this country.”

(Mirror) EU elections: Tories on just 7% in utterly devastating YouGov poll


In contrast Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is storming ahead on 37%

The Brexit Party is set to triumph on Thursday (Image: REUTERS)

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The latest poll makes devastating reading for the Tories as the party slumps in fifth place on just 7% on the eve of the European elections.

In contrast the Brexit Party is storming ahead with YouGov putting the newcomers on 37%.

That means Nigel Farage’s party is comfortably in first place – just a few weeks after it was founded.

The Liberal Democrats have been storming ahead and are now comfortably in second place on 19% – pushing Labour , on 13%, into third place.

But the Greens are snapping at Labour’s heels for third place – being only one point behind on 12%.

The Conservatives now sit in a distant fifth place, with just 7% of people planning to back the Tories  – down from 10% last week.

While the other new party Change UK have failed to cut through and are now on just 4%.

More bad news for Theresa May (Image: Getty Images)

Despite only just having been founded, the Brexit Party started off in third place in the second week of April on 15% – one point behind the Tories and one ahead of UKIP.

The Brexit Party’s meteoric rise has been matched by the slump the other two parties.

While Nigel Farage’s party has since more than doubled its vote to 37%, the Conservatives have seen their vote share halved to 7% and UKIP are down to just 3%.

Labour have fallen from 24% to just over half that figure now.

The Lib Dems have seen a revival in fortunes since this month’s local elections, with the first poll conducted in the aftermath seeing the party break out of their previous 7-10% range and up to 15%. They have continued to rise since then.

A second poll out today puts the Brexit Party even higher on 38%.

Labour, however, is second on 17% with the Lib Dems in third on 15% and the Tories in fourth.

It’s bad news for Labour as well (Image: REUTERS)

The Greens are on 7% while Change UK claim just 3% of the vote and Ukip scrapes 2%.

Adam Drummond, head of political polling at Opinium comments: “Nigel Farage’s mopping up of the Leave vote continues, the most recent shift in support being the movement of some 2017 Labour Leavers to the light blue (Brexit Party) column.

“If these results were repeated you’d expect to see the Brexit Party take 36 out of the 73 seats, up from 24 for UKIP in 2014.”

As his party soars in the polls Nigel Farage has said the Brexit Party will demand to have places on the EU negotiating team if they come top in the European elections this week.

Speaking to a 3,000 strong crowd, at a rally in Kensington, west London, Mr Farage said if his party tops the polls, representatives “must join the EU negotiating team”.

The former Ukip leader also speculated that wins for the Brexit Party could have an impact on the leadership of the two main Westminster parties.

Mr Farage added: “We will quickly get rid of the worst prime minister in the history of our nation.

“You never know, given the way we are smashing the Labour vote in Wales and the Midlands, a big Brexit win might get rid of Jeremy Corbyn as well.”

Mr Farage also commented on the Electoral Commission’s investigation into the party’s funding.

Its premises were searched by commission staff on Tuesday.

Mr Farage said: “After seven hours, the Electoral Commission have not found a single misdeed by the Brexit Party.

He continued: “Let me make clear to all the conspiracy theorists.

“Our money comes from this growing mass movement of people.”

He did not address the news of a European Parliament committee investigation into a complaint that he allegedly failed to declare £450,000 in donations to him by prominent Leave campaigner Arron Banks.

(BBC) Brexit: Theresa May’s withdrawal bill delayed


Theresa May

Theresa May’s Brexit withdrawal bill will not be published or debated until early June, the government says.

The prime minister is continuing to face pressure from her own MPs to resign following her pledge of a “new deal” on Brexit.

It comes after Commons leader Andrea Leadsom stepped down on Wednesday night over the PM’s Brexit policy.

Downing Street has announced she will be replaced by Treasury minister Mel Stride.

Several cabinet ministers have told the BBC that Mrs May cannot stay in her post.

Standing in for Mrs Leadsom, Mark Spencer told the Commons: “We will update the House on the publication and introduction of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on our return from the Whitsun recess.”

He added that the government planned to publish the bill in the first week of June.

“We had hoped to hold second reading on Friday 7 June,” he added.

“At the moment, we have not secured agreement to this in the usual channels. Of course we will update the House when we return from recess.”

On Wednesday, Theresa May told the Commons that the legislation would be published on Friday.

Second reading is when MPs get a first chance to debate legislation, before deciding whether it should proceed to detailed scrutiny.

Hunt on Trump visit

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said she would still be PM when President Trump visits the UK in early June.

Responding to a question after a speech at the National Cyber Security Centre, he said: “Theresa May will be prime minister to welcome him and rightly so.”

It is possible for Mrs May to quit as Conservative leader before Mr Trump’s visit, but continue as prime minister on a caretaker basis.

The US president is due to make a three-day state visit to the UK from 3 to 5 June.

Media captionAndrea Leadsom: “I couldn’t support the Brexit bill”

Speaking after Mrs Leadsom’s departure on Wednesday, Mrs May said she was “sorry to lose someone of [Mrs Leadsom’s] passion, drive and sincerity”.

On Wednesday night, Mrs Leadsom said Mrs May’s new Brexit plan had “elements I cannot support, that aren’t Brexit”.

The minister had been due to appear in the Commons on Thursday to give a business statement to MPs.

Presentational grey line

What is the Withdrawal Agreement Bill?

The UK needs to pass a law to implement the withdrawal agreement – the part of the PM’s Brexit deal which will take the country out of the EU – in UK law.

Presentational grey line

Mrs Leadsom was set to announce when the prime minister’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill – the legislation needed to implement the agreement between the UK and EU – would be introduced to Parliament.

On Wednesday, members of the Conservatives’ backbench 1922 Committee held a secret ballot on whether to change party rules, to allow the prime minister to face a vote of no confidence immediately.

Mrs May is due to meet the chairman of the committee, Sir Graham Brady, on Friday.

The results, in sealed envelopes, will be opened if Mrs May does not agree to stand down by 10 June.

Mrs May survived a no-confidence vote of Conservative MPs in December.Under existing rules, she cannot be challenged again until December this year.

(BBC) Boeing 737 Max: FAA says no fixed timetable for grounding to be lifted


Boeing's 737 Max aircraft
Image captionBoeing’s 737 Max aircraft was grounded in March

The US aviation regulator has indicated that the Boeing 737 Max might return to service later than airlines had hoped.

US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) acting director general Dan Elwell said if it took a year for the grounding order to be lifted “so be it”.

International aviation regulators are meeting on Thursday to discuss the 737 Max’s return to service.

The plane was grounded in March after two crashes in five months in which 346 people died.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said earlier this week that he expected the 737 Max to receive approval by late June or early July.

Mr Elwell was asked by reporters whether it was realistic that the 737 MAX could be flying again by the summer.

“If you said October I wouldn’t even say that, only because we haven’t finished determining exactly what the training requirements will be.

“If it takes a year to find everything we need to give us the confidence to lift the [grounding] order so be it.”

He said discussions with Boeing over approving the safety update were “a constant give and take until it is exactly right. It’s taking as long as it takes to be right. I’m not tied to a timetable”.

One decision the FAA has yet to make is whether or not to require pilots to undergo simulator training for the safety update.

Safety analysis

Aviation regulators from 33 countries, including the UK, Europe and China, are meeting in Texas.

The meeting, led by the FAA, could set out a timetable for when the aircraft can return to service.

The regulator said it would provide its “safety analysis that will form the basis for our return to service decision process”.

The FAA also said it “will provide safety experts to answer any questions participants have related to their respective decisions to return the fleet to service”.

Boeing has developed a software update for the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (Mcas) on the 737 Max – a new feature on the jet designed to improve the handling of the plane and to stop it pitching up at too high an angle.

Mcas has been linked to both the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March, which killed 157 passengers and crew, and the Lion Air disaster in Indonesia at the end of October, in which 189 people perished.

However, Boeing has not formally submitted the software fix to the FAA.

Southwest Airlines is the biggest operator of Boeing's 737 Max
Image captionSouthwest Airlines is the biggest operator of Boeing’s 737 Max

The FAA is expected to conduct a certification flight in the coming weeks.

The executive chairman of the International Pilot Training Association, Captain Tilmann Gabriel, told the BBC: “The FAA current acting director general has made it very clear that he is not committing to October, which was the real date [for the reintroduction], but there is so much to do.

“The credibility of the FAA and Boeing is at stake here. I’m convinced that there is a fix found, but this has to be now properly introduced.

It is also not clear when regulators outside the US in other countries will allow the plane back in the air.

China was the first country to ban the 737 Max from its skies following the Ethiopian Airlines crash. Other nations including the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union soon followed suit.

The US was one of the last countries to ground the 737 Max in March following the Ethiopian Airlines crash. Southwest Airlines and American Airlines are the biggest operators of the 737 Max globally.

Woman mourns at funeral for victims of the Ethiopian Airlines crash
Image captionThe Ethiopian Airlines crash claimed 157 lives

The FAA has said that the issue of whether to make pilot training on 737 Max simulators a requirement before the plane can return to service is “still under review”.

The New York Times recently reported that the simulators – which Boeing provides the software for – were not able to accurately replicate conditions similar to those which played a part in both the Ethiopians Airline and Lion Air disasters.

Boeing said it “has made corrections to the 737 Max simulator software and has provided additional information to device operators to ensure that the simulator experience is representative across different flight conditions”.

It added that it was working with both the manufacturers of the simulators and regulators “on these changes and improvements and to ensure that customer training is not disrupted”.

Mr Gabriel told the BBC: “The big thing is that the simulators had not anticipated the Mcas. Pilots didn’t know about it and if the authorities decide that all pilots have to be trained in a simulator that [could] cause a very big delay.”

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) will also hold a meeting on Thursday with airlines that have grounded the 737 Max.

Alexandre de Juniac, the IATA’s director general and chief executive, said the gathering was designed to assess what the airlines “expect from the manufacturer and from the regulatory authorities”.

(GUA) What went wrong at British Steel?


Why the UK’s second-largest steelmaker has entered insolvency

A British Steel plant
 The UK steel industry has been in decline for some time. Photograph: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP/Getty Images

British Steel has entered insolvency after the government refused to provide it with a £30m loan, saying the terms the company and its private equity owner Greybull Capital were asking for would have amounted to unlawful state aid. Here are the answers to some key questions.

What has gone wrong at British Steel?
When Greybull Capital bought British Steel for £1 in 2016 from Tata Steel, rebranding it with the old British Steel name, it promised great things. The private equity firm pledged to invest £400m to revive the company and within months it was boasting of a return to profit and a bright future ahead. Two years later it has entered insolvency. In a letter to staff last week, British Steel’s chief executive, Gerald Reichmann, blamed weak market demand, high raw material prices, the weakness of sterling and uncertainty over the outcome of Brexit discussions.

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How much is Brexit to blame?
It is not the only factor in the crisis but it is very important. Steel contracts are typically agreed well in advance of the product being delivered. As things stand, the UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October and the terms of that separation are yet to be agreed, meaning British Steel’s overseas customers do not know what tariffs will apply to steel they buy from the company. Sources close to the company say orders from customers in the EU and further afield have dried up as a result.

That is why the company wanted an urgent cash injection, to replace the drop in sales in the hope that a favourable Brexit deal could be signed in the meantime. Another factor is the weakness of sterling since the referendum result, which makes the cost of imported raw material used in making steel higher. Greybull bought British Steel after the referendum but it did not expect Brexit uncertainty to last this long.

Can the company survive in some form?
The steelworks in Scunthorpe represents the bulk of the company and it is hard to see who would be an obvious buyer for the site, given that it has struggled under successive owners. The fundamental problems affecting it show no sign of solution anytime soon. The government has said it would bring together the company, its unions and suppliers in an effort to avoid losing one of the UK’s last two blast furnace steelworks. But that will probably require someone to come in and offer to buy the company. The metals group Liberty House, which was interested in Tata Steel’s Port Talbot plant and has since bought steel mills from the company, is one name in the frame.

Why was the government reluctant to bail it out?
For a start, propping up failing businesses goes against the Conservative party’s free market ethos unless absolutely unavoidable. Also, the government has already loaned the company £120m to help it pay an EU bill for its carbon emissions. Not to mention that the date of Brexit has already been delayed once. Ministers did not want to lend British Steel money to tide it over in the hope of a Brexit deal that may not come.

However, the official stance is that British Steel and its bank lenders wanted the government to lend the company £30m on terms that were not commercial, which would have been unlawful under EU state aid rules.

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Is the whole UK steel industry in trouble?
The UK steel industry has been in decline for some time because of a variety of factors such as overcapacity in EU steelmaking and Chinese state-subsidised firms flooding the global market with cheap product. An industry that employed 323,000 people in 1971 now employs less than a tenth of that, at 31,900. The closure of the Redcar steelworks in 2015 was a significant blow to the sector and left the UK with only two blast furnace steelworks, which make steel from raw materials: Scunthorpe and Tata Steel-owned Port Talbot in south Wales. There are also four electric arc furnaces in the UK, which make products from recycled steel. There are three of these sites in Sheffield and one in Cardiff.

How important is the steel industry?
Very. For a start, steelmaking jobs are highly skilled and well paid. The average salary of £36,000 is around 50% higher than that of workers in regions where the industry operates such as Wales and Yorkshire. The ability to make steel is seen as a crucial component of a developed nation’s defence capability, not to mention its role for strategically important industries such as transport and oil and gas.

British Steel is also important in its own right. The UK’s six producers all essentially produce different steel products, meaning there’s very little overlap. So the loss of any one producer immediately reduces the UK’s capability to make all the different products the country requires.

British Steel is the only UK producer of rail, and a vast array of construction products. A loss of this would mean Britain has no choice but to import increasing volumes of steel for construction and infrastructure projects.

What else could be done?
About 42% of steel that the government buys comes from abroad. Not all of that could be sourced from the UK as we do not make every grade of steel that the state purchases. However, on Monday the government committed to consider social and environmental benefits when buying steel, in a move that the industry hopes will make British companies more likely to win contracts within EU state aid rules. The industry has also complained that it is being hit by the twin burdens of high business rates and energy costs, given how energy-intensive steelmaking is. Policy changes could offer some relief in those areas too.

(DML) Now EE and Vodafone drop Huawei phones from their 5G network launch lineup as chip designer ARM distances itself from the company over US ban


  • Firms EE and Vodafone have pulled Huawei’s phones from their 5G networks 
  • UK-based chip designer ARM has told staff not to do business with the company
  • The reports follow Google’s decision to pull the company’s android license
  • An order from President Trump last week effectively banned technology firms from ‘foreign adversaries’ trading with US companies without approval

Leading mobile carriers and technology firms have started to sever ties with Huawei to comply with the recent US trade clampdown. 

UK-based chip designer ARM have told their staff to ‘halt’ business with the Chinese telecoms firm while mobile operators EE and Vodafone have pulled Huawei’s phones from their 5G networks.

Japan’s KDDI and Y! Mobile are also said to be delaying the launch of upcoming Huawei smartphones  to protect their operations amid security concerns.

An order from President Trump last week effectively banned technology firms from ‘foreign adversaries’ trading with US companies without approval. 

Huawei is accused of being a gateway for the Chinese government to spy on Western nations using equipment used to facilitate the upcoming 5G service.  

A number of leading mobile carriers and technology firms have started to sever ties with Huawei to comply with the recent US trade clampdown. Chip designer ARM and mobile operators EE and Vodafone have pulled the Chinese firm’s phones from their 5G networks

Since then, the firm has received a series of blows including Google’s announcement that they would be pulling the company’s Android license.

This means that new and yet-to-be-released Huawei models would not be able to access Google apps as part of Android, like Google Maps or Youtube. 

Another major drawback to the business came today as British tech company ARM has also suspended dealing with the company.

Documents obtained by the BBC have instructed ARM employees to halt ‘all active contracts, support entitlements, and any pending engagements’ with the company.

If ARM does sever ties in the long-term it would greatly affect Huawei as it relies on ARM’s technology to build its own chips.    

One analyst told the BBC that  the move, if it became long-term would be an ‘insurmountable’ blow to Huawei’s business.

An order from President Trump last week banned technology firms from ‘foreign adversaries’ trading with US companies without approval. Huawei is accused of being a gateway for the Chinese government to spy on Western nations

Telecom firms EE and Vodafone has left Huawei out of their line-up of 5G smartphones, which EE is launching next week.

EE said it had chosen to ‘pause’ the sale of Huawei 5G phones amid ongoing tensions between the US and the company.

They also confirmed the Huawei equipment it currently uses in its network infrastructure is in the process of being phased out.

Vodafone also said it would suspend Huawei’s Mate X phone from its 5G line-up because ‘Huawei’s 5G handset is yet to receive the necessary certifications’. 

EE chief executive Mark Allera said it will not restart Huawei sales until they are satisfied that the security of its customers is being protected. 

The BT-owned telecoms giant said it will be the first operator in the UK to launch the high-speed mobile network, which is expected to offer internet speeds several times that of current generation 4G. 

An order from President Trump last week banned technology firms from 'foreign adversaries' trading with US companies. Huawei knocked Apple off the second place to Samsung in smartphone sales, however experts say not having Google Play will put off potential buyers

An order from President Trump last week banned technology firms from ‘foreign adversaries’ trading with US companies. Huawei knocked Apple off the second place to Samsung in smartphone sales, however experts say not having Google Play will put off potential buyers

The company confirmed a number of 5G-ready smartphones would be available on its new network, including devices from Samsung, OnePlus, LG, HTC and Oppo.

Fellow mobile operator Vodafone has confirmed it will launch 5G across seven cities in the UK on July 3, with another 12 cities to follow by the end of the year.

Mr Allera said the company has ‘worked for decades with government’ and ‘at the moment we have no instructions to change our plans’, amid security fears around the use of Huawei in 5G networks. 

A Huawei spokesperson told the Telegraph: ‘We value our close relationships with our partners, but recognise the pressure some of them are under, as a result of politically motivated decisions. 

‘We are confident this regrettable situation can be resolved and our priority remains to continue to deliver world-class technology and products to our customers around the world.’

MailOnline have contacted Huawei for comment.

In 2017, Huawei shipped over 153 million phones globally in the first three months of 2019 alone and delivered more than 59 million smartphones, around half of which went to European consumers. 

The Government is yet to announce its decision on whether the Chinese firm should be allowed as part of telecoms infrastructure following an official review.

‘Extremely unfortunate timing’: Huawei-owned Honor launches new devices just two days after Google pulls its Android license

Huawei-owned smartphone firm Honor has unveiled its next line-up of smartphones, amid uncertainty over the future of its devices.

An order from President Trump last week effectively banned technology firms from ‘foreign adversaries’ trading with US companies without approval.

Google then confirmed it would stop supporting Android on Huawei and Honor devices, the software which powers both firms’ phones.

Huawei-owned smartphone firm Honor has unveiled its next line-up of smartphones, despite uncertainty over the future of its devices. Here, a picture from Honor’s smartphones launch yesterday

The block means that new and yet-to-be-released Huawei and Honor phones are unlikely to be able to access Google apps as part of Android.

Although Honor says that their new line  should have access to the Google Play Store as well as Google’s other services, future updates are less certain.

A temporary license and grace period sanctioned by the US government will initially allow support for existing devices until August.

Speaking to MailOnline, Ben Wood, from the CCS Insight consultancy, said that it was ‘extremely unfortunate timing for such an exciting product’.

The uncertainty of the current situation is damaging for Huawei’s business and the fact that they don’t have clarity further muddies the water for customers.

‘People rely on core Google services like Google maps and not being able to have these applications on devices would present a huge challenge,’ he said. 

At the launch, Honor boss George Zhao said regarding the ongoing trade row, ‘no matter what happens’ he believed that the firm can ‘overcome it’. 

The company has chosen bright colours for the holographic designs, paired with a powerful 48MP AI Quad Camera

Both models also boast a 6.26′ all-view display with a 91.7 per cent screen-to-body ratio. Honor said availability for the 20 Pro, which will cost €599 (£525) in Europe, would only be ‘released in the near future’

Existing Huawei smartphone users will be able to update apps and push through security fixes, as well as update Google Play services.

But when Google launches the next version of Android later this year, it may not be available on Huawei devices.

Effectively what this means is that future Huawei devices may no longer have apps such as YouTube and Maps.

The latest offering continues the winning trend of flagship hardware at more reasonable prices aimed at millennial smartphone users.

A third device, the Honor 20 Lite, is already on sale for £249.99

Google is assuring users of Huawei smartphones the American company’s services will still will work on them but the impact to Huawei may be crippling (file photo)

The company has chosen bright colours for the holographic designs, paired with  a powerful  48MP AI Quad Camera. 

The Pro supports up to 5x hybrid zoom, which uses the other cameras to fill in details beyond the optical zoom, and up to 30x digital zoom. 

The Honor 20 can be pre-ordered now for £399.99 at Carphone Warehouse, O2, Three, Amazon and Argos with a free Honor Watch Magic.

(DML) Jamie’s recipe for disaster: Experts reveal faults that led to collapse of chef’s sprawling restaurant empire


  • Critics claim Oliver’s restaurants were over-priced for their ‘mid-range’ offering
  • But his recipe books still sold millions and cooking shows continued to do well
  • With rise of food delivery apps and online reviews three chains failed to survive
  • Jamie’s Italian, Union Jacks and Barbecoa have all gone into administration 

Pictured: Jamie Oliver on The Naked Chef during its second series in 2000 

Jamie Oliver’s food empire today came crashing down around him as the celebrity chef announced his restaurant brand had spiralled into administration.

Food critics and industry experts claim the overpriced, mid-range meals on offer at his three High Street restaurants were a recipe for disaster. 

While Oliver’s recipe books flew off the shelves in their millions and his TV shows continued to rake in viewers, his own food outlets failed to meet the same standards. 

Restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin said she would have to be ‘paid’ to go back to Jamie’s Italian in London‘s Westfield.

Market analyst Fiona Cincotta claimed the menu was ‘too expensive for mid-range dining and not high-end enough to compete at the more expensive end of the market’. 

Oliver, who first broke the mainstream as the cheeky chappy from Essex on his first TV show The Naked Chef at 23, blamed Brexit for the collapse. 

But his restaurants, which also include Union Jacks and Barbecoa, have teetered on the edge of administration for more than a year with millions of pounds in debt.  

Experts claim the Jamie brand was being used as an excused to hike up prices, without any increases in food quality.  

Poor online reviews are also believed to have contributed to the worsening reputation of Jamie’s Italian as food delivery apps such as Uber Eats have conquered the market, leaving the chef unable to save his struggling brand.

TripAdvisor reviewers recently branded his Covent Garden branch as ‘shocking’, ‘nothing special’ and pricey in recent months. 

His restaurants now owe £71.5million with 1,000 workers set to lose their jobs. 

Josh Singh, 24, who works at Jamie’s Italian at the Bullring in Birmingham said: ‘In the early years it was a destination restaurant but I think over time the message got lost. The company started giving things away and turned into your average high street restaurant instead of a celebrity restaurant.

‘They opened restaurants all over the place and in places where you wouldn’t expect celebrity restaurants to be like villages and very small towns.’ 

An anonymous member of staff added: ‘It was getting too commercial and I felt under pressure to get customers seated and ordered and then out too quickly.

‘On busy nights it felt like a conveyor belt. Why pay £100 plus for a meal when you feel under pressure to eat it quickly? You might as well go to McDonalds.’

Gareth Ogden, from chartered accountants Haysmacintyre, said: ‘Sky high rents, particularly at its premium sites, combined with soaring business rates have been at the heart of Jamie Oliver’s recent woes. Video playing bottom right…Click here to expand to full pageLoaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:07PauseUnmuteCurrent Time0:07/Duration Time0:29FullscreenExpandClose

Fifteen Barbecoa restaurants have also closed as Jamie Oliver's brand went into administration today

Fifteen Barbecoa restaurants have also closed as Jamie Oliver’s brand went into administration today 

‘The rescue plan put in place in 2017 appears to have now crashed on the rocks of over-supply in the casual dining market and consumer uncertainty. 

‘In a sector awash with excess supply, particularly in the Italian market, maintaining quality, reliability and point of difference is imperative for survival. 

‘Jamie’s Italian, the group’s largest brand, is perhaps guilty of over-expansion and has lost the passion and zeal of its founder which was its USP when originally brought to market.’ 

Jamie’s Italian is far from the only victim of the High Street bloodbath, with dozens of food brands admitting defeat in the last two years.

Prezzo, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Patisserie Valerie are among those who have struggled to survive.     

Simon Mydlowski, an expert in the hospitality industry, said Jamie’s failed to keep up with trends in the sector. 

This sign appeared in the window of the Jamie’s Italian in Victoria, central London this morning

Senior market analyst Fiona Cincotta from Cityindex, added: ‘The restaurant chain, which piggybacked on the fame of Naked Chef Jamie Oliver, has been struggling for years to keep the business model going in which the pasta dishes – most of Jamie’s Italian offering – were too expensive for mid-range dinning and not high end enough to compete in the more expensive end of the market. 

‘Higher rent, rising food prices, uncertainty over Brexit and competition from smaller, more nimble outfits, have been eroding the company’s earnings over the last few years.  

‘Although nobody in the company blamed Brexit for the situation it is telling that the Jamie Oliver franchise is alive and well abroad, operating 25 restaurants in other countries including Ireland. 

‘The demise doesn’t leave much to celebrate, only room for questions about how it could have been done better.’    

The self-made chef’s fall from grace comes after he refused to let severe dyslexia stand in his way of success.

Born to pub owners Trevor and Sally Oliver in Clavering, Essex, he started out cooking in the kitchen with his parents and sister. 

Josh Singh started work at the company as door staff in 2013 and has worked his way up the ladder to become manager. He slammed the closures today 

After leaving school, he went on to attend Westminster Technical College, earning a qualification in home economics, before getting a job as a pastry chef at the London restaurant of Italian cook Antonio Carluccio.

His shot at stardom came when a visiting TV crew spotted him working at the River Cafe in Hammersmith, West London, in 1997. 

Two years later he hit TV screens aged 23 on The Naked Chef, establishing his reputation as a cheeky, laid-back cook from Essex.

The BBC series was praised at the time for inspiring men to cook. It first aired on April 14th in 1999 and ran for three series and including Christmas specials. 

Jamie met his wife, Juliette — known as Jools — at college in 1993 when the pair were just 18.

They married in Essex in June 2000, with a low-key reception in Jamie’s parents’ garden, to which the chef wore a pale blue Paul Smith suit and snakeskin brogues.

Jools worked as a waitress before becoming a TV assistant, model and, briefly, her husband’s PA.

The couple have five children – Poppy Honey Rosie, 17; Daisy Boo Pamela, 15; Petal Blossom Rainbow, 10; Buddy Bear Maurice, eight; and River Rocket Blue Dallas, two. 

Oliver tweeted: ‘I’m devastated that our much-loved UK restaurants have gone into administration. I am deeply saddened by this outcome and would like to thank all of the people who have put their hearts and souls into this business over the years.’

He went on to present more than 25 cooking series, spearheading a campaign for improved nutrition in school meals. 

Jamie famously waged war on Turkey Twizzlers in 2005, when he visited Westminster to speak with politicians about his healthy school dinners campaign.  

The chef also released a host of accessible cookery books, including  ‘Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals’ and ‘Everyday Super Food’. In 2010, ‘How to Cook (Part One)’ became the biggest selling cookbook of all time. 

Timeline: How Jamie Oliver’s chains plunged into debt

2008: Jamie’s Italian opened its first restaurant in 2008.

2015: Jamie At Home, which contracted agents to sell his cookware range at parties, ceased trading after racking up losses. The company began in 2009, as part of the Jamie Oliver organisation, before being licensed to another firm in 2013, but shut up shop in 2015.

2017: Jamie’s businesses lost £20m, forcing him to shut 18 of his Italian restaurants – leading to the loss of 600 jobs.

Chain was struggling with debts of £71.5m and teetered on the edge of bankruptcy before the chef injected his savings into the business. 

The firm also took out £37m in loans from HSBC and other companies. 

In 2017 he closed the last of his four his Union Jack Piazzas, in London’s Covent Garden. 

2018: Jamie’s Italian shuttered 12 of its 37 sites, with the latter tranche executed through a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA).

He also came under fire for failing to pay suppliers after his upmarket steak restaurant Barbecoa crashed into administration, leading to the closure of its Piccadilly branch.  

The restaurant in St Paul’s continued to trade and was bought out by a new company set up by Oliver, who was no longer legally liable for the debts. 

2019: All but three of Jamie Oliver’s restaurants close after the business called in administrators, with 1,000 staff facing redundancy. 

Licensing his name for use on items such as Hotpoint ovens and Tefal pans has made him £7.3million before tax in 2016 alone. Cooking and recipe books have raked in £5.4million before tax in the same year. 

He opened his first Jamie’s Italian in Oxford in 2008, growing it to more than 60 restaurants worldwide. 

In 2017 the restaurant chain lost almost £20million and was forced to close several of its branches.

It came close to bankruptcy last year before the chef injected £12.7million of his savings into the business.  

That year he closed the last of his Union Jacks eateries and scrapped his magazine Jamie, which had been in print for almost 10 years. The father-of-five went on to describe that year as the worst of his life.  

By 2018, Jamie’s Italian was struggling with debts of £71.5million. More than 600 people lost their jobs earlier this year the chain said it would close 12 sites.   

Despite his financial woes, Jamie recently splashed out £6 million on a 16th century Essex mansion, in a 70-acre estate, complete with ghost. 

He’s reportedly planning to convert outhouses into a mega-kitchen from which he can film shows and hold his masterclasses.

He and Jools spent £8.9 million on a Grade II-listed mansion near Hampstead Heath, north London, in 2016, and spent two years renovating it.

It boasted seven bedrooms, an open-plan kitchen with cream Aga, a grand piano and a Louis XV-style bed worth £2,200, it’s certainly impressive.

The Olivers have fitted the house with some quirky features, including a wood-fired pizza oven, a treehouse bed and a vegetable patch for the children.

Jamie hired his brother-in-law, Paul Hunt, married to his sister Anna-Marie, to run Jamie Oliver Ltd in 2014 — and last year Hunt assumed responsibility for the restaurants, too.

But some of his methods — such as making staff redundant over Christmas and cutting ties with Jamie’s friends and culinary mentors — have led to a reputation for ruthlessness.

Last year, an anonymous insider described him as an ‘arrogant, incompetent failure’ who was ‘running the business into the ground’.

Jamie rebutted the claims, saying the story was ‘nonsense’ and that Paul was ‘a loyal brother-in-law and loving father as well as a strong and capable CEO’.

(BBG) Farage’s Brexit Party to Trounce May, Sporting Index Says

(BBG) Farage’s Brexit Party to Trounce May, Sporting Index Says

May to Deliver New Brexit Proposal to Win Over Lawmakers

Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is poised to dominate the upcoming European elections in the U.K., according to spread betting firm Sporting Index.

The anti-EU party will win 28 seats, the firm said. Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives will win seven, while Labour will take 13 and the Liberal Democrats 12, Sporting Index predicted in an email in London on Tuesday.

Sporting Index has had a consistently strong record in predicting some of the key twists and turns of the Brexit saga. Last month, about two hours before the latest vote on May’s Brexit deal, the spread betting firm forecast she’d lose by 60 votes. She was defeated by 58.

“The Tories look set to face the consequences over their handling of Brexit, with the Brexit Party and Liberal Democrats making significant gains due to their clear stance on one of the most polarizing events in British politics,” Sporting Index’s Phill Fairclough said.

On Tuesday, May offered lawmakers a vote on whether her Brexit deal should be subject to a referendum, in a last-ditch bid to save it. Last time MPs voted on a second referendum, there was just a 12- vote difference, with 280 backing a confirmatory vote on a deal and 292 against it.

(Independent) Nigel Farage claims Brexit Party victory will result in ‘buy one get one free’ hit on May and Corbyn

(Independent) Brexiteer claims Westminster ‘terrified’ by his party

Nigel Farage has claimed a decisive victory for the Brexit Party in the European Parliament elections could see the end of both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, in a “buy one get one free” result.

The prominent Brexiteer rallied his supporters ahead of Thursdays poll, claiming Westminster was “terrified” by the rise of his new outfit in recent weeks.

He described Ms May as the “most duplicitous prime minister in the history” and turned his fire on Tory leadership hopeful Boris Johnson, leading to boos and shouts of “traitor” from the audience.

Organisers estimated 3,000 people attended the rally in London, with speeches from former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe and former Czech prime minister Vaclav Klaus.

Both the Tories and Labour are braced for a Brexit backlash in the upcoming European election, with the Brexit Party regularly topping the polls

A buoyant Mr Farage told the crowds: “If we win big on Thursday, there are a couple or really nice little focuses that will be attached.

“The first is we will quickly get rid of the worst, most duplicitous prime minister in the history of our nation.

“Given the way we are smashing the Labour vote in Wales and in the north of England, you never know a big Brexit win may get rid of Jeremy Corbyn as well.

“Buy one get one free – how about that?”

The former Ukip leader said a good result for his party would put pressure on the government to deliver Brexit by 31 October and bring back the threat of a no deal.

He also warned it would “kill of any prospect” of parliament pursuing a second referendum.

Mr Farage also mocked Mr Johnson for describing the prime minister’s deal as “vassalage” and then voting for it, adding: “You cannot trust the political class in this county.”

His intervention came as Ms May’s last-ditch attempt to save her Brexit plan looked set to fail as angry Tory MPs deserted her and Labour rebuffed her attempts to win them over.

In a speech in London, she promised to offer MPs a vote on whether to hold a second referendum in a desperate bid to secure support for her beleaguered Brexit plan.

Ms May’s offer also included a promise to safeguard workplace and environmental protections, as well as a choice on the future customs arrangements the UK should pursue with the EU.

(NYT) In China, Some Fear the End of ‘Chimerica’

(NYT) A factory in central China’s Jiangxi Province. “I hope China and the U.S. can find a better way to coexist,” one Chinese entrepreneur said.

A factory in central China’s Jiangxi Province. “I hope China and the U.S. can find a better way to coexist,” one Chinese entrepreneur said.CreditCreditCHINATOPIX, via Associated Press

Wu Shichun is one of countless Chinese entrepreneurs who over the past four decades have prospered from access to American customers and money.

Today, as the American government threatens to take that away, the serial entrepreneur and venture capital investor is fundamentally rethinking how he does business.

One of his portfolio companies designs and makes fashion products in China, then sells to American consumers on Another, a vape device maker, sells most of its products in the United States. The third, which makes metal materials for electronic manufacturers, exports 40 percent of its production there. All three would be hit by new American tariffs.

“From now on I’ll have to invest in companies that focus on the Chinese market,” said Mr. Wu, 42.

“I hope China and the U.S. can find a better way to coexist,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be mutually destructive.”

The Chinese government has struck a defiant tone since President Trump ratcheted up the trade war on Friday by raising tariffs on Chinese exports worth $200 billion a year. “If the U.S. wants to talk, our door is open,” said a commentary on state-controlled China Central Television on Monday night that quickly went viral. “If the U.S. wants to fight, we’ll be with them till the end.”

Many entrepreneurs and intellectuals, by contrast, are hoping for a deal. China’s rise out of the stark terror of the Cultural Revolution was fueled in part from connections to the United States, an early diplomatic partner that offered investment, markets and opportunity. There’s even a word going around the Chinese internet for the tight economic bonds that have formed between the world’s two largest economies: “Chimerica.”

The trade war is taking direct aim at Chimerica. New tariffs, if they stick, threaten to cut off a big market for many Chinese companies.

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Catch up and prep for the week ahead with this newsletter of the most important business insights, delivered Sundays.SIGN UPPresident Trump and President Xi Jinping of China in Beijing in November 2017.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

President Trump and President Xi Jinping of China in Beijing in November 2017.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

[Trump’s love for tariffs began in Japan’s ’80s boom.]

Beyond tariffs, trade hawks within the Trump administration are pursuing what they call decoupling, or breaking up a relationship that they now feel poses a long-term strategic threat to the United States. The trade hawks hope to get American companies to shift their factories to friendlier countries. They are pushing to restrict Chinese investment in the United States and cut academic and other bonds.

Now many people in China are wondering what will happen if the countries decouple. They question whether the country can continue its miraculous rise as borders and barriers go up.

“From the day we were born, my generation has always seen the country’s economy heading for the better,” Feng Dahui, an early Alibaba employee and an internet entrepreneur in the city of Hangzhou, wrote on his timeline on WeChat, the Chinese social media service, on Monday evening.

“We’ve experienced the internet revolution and enjoyed the benefits of globalization,” he continued. “Now this type of optimism seems to be deserting us. Everything seems to be ending abruptly.”

Their concerns are unlikely to sway the Chinese government. Most political analysts believe that the only effective pressure will have to come from within the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership, and official voices have been uniformly strident. Negative commentaries have been stricken from China’s heavily censored internet.

Still, some entrepreneurs are expressing their worries.

Xiao Yu said the e-commerce business he founded, OFashion, which sells luxury goods from Europe and the United States to Chinese consumers, saw growth slow in the second half of last year partly because of the trade war. While only about 10 percent of its merchandise comes from American brands like Michael Kors or Coach, the trade war has hit China’s stock market and hurt consumer confidence.

The trade war could jeopardize his dreams of raising money from American investors and perhaps even taking his start-up public on an American stock exchange, he said.

“As an entrepreneur, our fate is tightly bound to the country,” Mr. Xiao said. He hopes and is confident that the two countries can reach a deal.

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“China and the U.S. don’t have to have strained relations,” he said.

Many also appear worried that the trade war and the government’s tightening control over the private sector could halt or even reverse its progress. In a country only a couple of generations removed from starvation, the possibility doesn’t seem far-fetched to many. One 2017 post online, called “A Guide to Eating Tree Bark,” described how people in the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia survived during the starvation of the Great Leap Forward. It has recently gone viral again, with more than 100,000 page views.

The two sides have plenty of reasons to distrust each other. The United States blames China for heavy job losses, theft of corporate secrets and cheating at the rules of global trade. China credits the hard work and sacrifices of its people for its success and sees the trade war as driven by American fears of a prosperous Chinese nation.

But the doves in China say both sides benefit from the relationship more than they admit. Foreign investors were early backers and inspirations for Chinese internet giants like Alibaba and Tencent, for example. And many American companies and investors have profited handsomely from China’s rise.

Those hoping for a deal worry that the Chinese government has fundamentally misjudged the Trump administration. At three top-level economic and monetary meetings in April, an economist at a Chinese investment bank said, government officials sent the signals that the leadership was optimistic about a trade deal.

Some people are resurrecting old articles online about the Chinese-American relationship that are now going viral. One of them was a January speech by Li Ruogu, a former chairman of the Export-Import Bank of China and former deputy governor of China’s central bank. Mr. Li argued that many Chinese, including some senior officials, didn’t realize that the relations had shifted fundamentally. The conflict wasn’t about the United States being threatened by China’s growth, he said, but by its vision of state-led capitalism.

“This is the conflict of systems,” he wrote. “It won’t end easily.”

Another popular, and subsequently censored, article had the headline “The Reasons Behind the Chimerica Breakup,” recalling the portmanteau coined by Niall Ferguson and Moritz Schularick. The popularity of the article, whose author is anonymous, reflects a growing realization that the two countries’ conflicts go beyond trade and may not have an easy solution.

The article argues that China’s system of low human rights-based mercantilistic state capitalism negatively affected the pricing and wage structures in the United States and other developed economies. Now the United States wants China to change its economic growth model, the author argued, while China only wants to buy more American products to solve short-term trade imbalances.

“Chimerica parted ways on May 10,” the author wrote. “Now it’s time to decide whether to adopt the U.S. rules or the Chinese rules.”

(LeMonde) Antonio Costa : « Je partage les mêmes idées que Macron »


Dans un entretien avec « Le Monde », le premier ministre socialiste portugais, associé à la gauche radicale dans son pays, explique pourquoi il veut s’allier avec le président français au niveau européen.

Antonio Costa à l’Elysée, le 20 mai.
Antonio Costa à l’Elysée, le 20 mai. LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP

Premier ministre socialiste du Portugal depuis 2015 grâce à une alliance inédite avec la gauche radicale, Antonio Costa est souvent présenté comme l’un des espoirs de la gauche en Europe, parce qu’il a réussi à faire sortir son pays de la cure d’austérité imposée en échange d’un plan d’aide de la zone euro. Il a toutefois récemment soutenu Emmanuel Macron.

Votre vidéo appelant à l’unité « des forces progressistes » avec Emmanuel Macron a suscité beaucoup de critiques des gauches françaises et portugaises. Aux élections européennes, soutenez-vous le président français ou Raphaël Glucksmann, la tête de liste PS-Place publique ?

Les choix de politique intérieure sont les choix des Français. Mais au niveau européen, il faut absolument bâtir une grande alliance progressiste et démocratique au moment où l’extrême droite construit son internationale. J’ai envoyé un message sur une vision européenne qu’on partage avec Emmanuel Macron ; de la même façon que j’ai envoyé un message à Alexis Tsipras [le premier ministre grec de gauche]. Il faut bâtir au sein du Conseil européen un grand front pour l’avenir de l’Europe.

Y compris avec La République en Marche, que les socialistes français classent à droite ?

Au niveau européen, on siège à vingt-huit. Et à vingt-huit, il faut trouver des points de vue en commun et des alliances. Sur plusieurs sujets, à commencer par la réforme de la zone euro, on partage les même idées avec le président Macron, qui a donné une impulsion supplémentaire aux efforts réformistes pour bâtir une Europe plus proche des citoyens.

(EP) “La primera pinacoteca de Portugal sufre el abandono del Estado”

(EP) António Pimentel, director del museo portugués de Arte Antiguo, se marcha hastiado por la burocracia tras nueve años en el cargo

António Filipe Pimentel, director del MNAA de Lisboa.
António Filipe Pimentel, director del MNAA de Lisboa. JOÃO HENRIQUES

António Pimentel (Penacova, 58 años de edad) deja en junio la dirección del Museo Nacional de Arte Antiguo (MNAA) de Lisboa. Después de nueve años en el cargo, este historiador del arte se marcha hastiado de la burocracia y del desprecio del Estado hacia la primera pinacoteca pública del país. Quizás por no llorar, se ríe de que lleven meses sin luz en las escaleras o de que la tienda esté cerrada porque se ha estropeado el ordenador y tiene que venir a arreglarlo alguien del organismo público competente.

Pregunta. Hace dos años, tras la destrucción por el fuego del Museo Nacional de Río de Janeiro, advirtió de los peligros que corría el MNAA. ¿Se han corregido?

Respuesta. De los incendios estamos protegidos, pero se mantiene una desinversión en la institución, en recursos humanos, condiciones financieras y administrativas. Hay un abandono técnico del Estado, que no asume este museo como un proyecto suyo. Eso va a dañar y estirar hasta su límite al MNAA, hasta el punto de que las luces se van a apagar, digámoslo así, porque los museos, a diferencia de los monumentos, son lugares para programar y producir felicidad en las personas.


P. ¿Durante su mandato nunca se ha preocupado el Ministerio de Cultura por el museo?

R. He conocido siete ministros, solo João Soares [Partido Socialista] tuvo una verdadera conciencia de la importancia del museo. Trabajamos juntos y nos trajo patrocinadores, pero dimitió a los cuatro meses [por amenazar en Facebook con abofetear a dos columnistas]. Han pasado tres años desde entonces y no he vuelto a tener un contacto directo con los sucesivos ministros.

P. ¿Por qué se va?

Desde hace meses no hay luz en la escalera de empleados y nos alumbramos con la linterna del móvil

R. Me contrataron para defender y promover el prestigio del MNAA. Desde 2014 alerto de los problemas crónicos del museo y no ha habido respuesta. Llegué a una institución que tenía todo en contra, donde todo estaba hecho para dificultar, para impedir la comunicación, su internacionalización y el conocimiento público y gracias a sus propias fuerzas y energía creativa se consigue invertir ese ciclo y volverse una estructura luminosa, cambiando todo, desde la investigación a la programación y la estructura física, renovada al 80%. Convertimos el museo en una gran institución internacional pese a que el país se había olvidado de su relevancia. Existe una clara desinhibición de la Administración Pública, más patente con la ministra actual [Graça Fonseca] y existe una divergencia filosófica entre la dirección del museo y el ministerio, por tanto, no hay razón para continuar. Va a ser muy difícil llegar a final de este mes con dignidad. Ya se ha ido la directora de edición, un cargo pomposo, pues era solo ella la que hacía todos los catálogos, y ya se fue también la dirección de comunicación.

P. ¿Qué herencia deja?

R. Creo que dos cosas, la luz sobre la institución. Es una referencia en Portugal y no lo era. Hoy los taxistas saben dónde está, no hay que darles la dirección. Y en segundo lugar, un nombre con marca internacional.

P. ¿Con cuántos empleados ha contado?

R. Del director al jardinero, 67, un número que debería ser solo el del Departamento de Conservación y Restauración. Hace 30 años eran 167 funcionarios para un espacio más pequeño y con menos visitas. Entonces apenas viajaban al exterior una o dos obras, pero en 2017 prestamos 154. La circulación internacional es una forma de reconocimiento y de demostrar a los portugueses que su MNAA tiene prestigio.

P. Una de sus acciones fue colgar obras del museo en las calles.

R. Sí, causó un gran impacto. Mucha gente pensó que eran las originales, se escandalizaron y se preocuparon por el museo y eso fue muy bueno.

En 2017 viajaron al resto de los continentes 154 obras del MNAA, prueba de su actual prestigio internacional

P. A falta de recursos organizó una cuestación popular para adquirir La adoración de los Magos (1828), de Domingos Sequeira.

R. Conseguimos los 600.000 euros necesarios y que el mundo descubriera a este pintor portugués. Fue una prueba de lo que el museo podía hacer por Portugal si tuviera el mínimo presupuesto.

P. ¿Qué presupuesto tiene?

R. No tenemos. La recaudación de las entradas va para el ministerio, lo de la tienda, también. La tienda está cerrada hace días porque se estropeó el ordenador y este depende de otra estructura administrativa. Desde hace meses no hay luz en la escalera de empleados y subimos con la linterna del móvil. Tampoco podemos contratar vigilantes. Ni siquiera somos dueños de las fotos de las obras que exhibimos. Solo podemos usar cinco o seis por exposición para cederlas a los medios. Si queremos más, las tenemos que comprar al ministerio.

P. ¿Pero el museo…?

R. El museo no existe; existe como entidad moral y jurídica. Es un ente administrativo. Las exposiciones, los programas y todas las iniciativas son gracias al Grupo de Amigos del Museo, ellos permiten que el dinero que recaudan llegue al MNAA, y nos da la agilidad que el ministerio nos impide. Así conseguimos comprar las lámparas de las salas cuando se funden. Si esperásemos a que la Administración comprara los focos adecuados para las obras, las 80 salas estarían a oscuras. El museo es una ficción, una invención de esta dirección, pues hace exposiciones con medios que no son públicos.

P. ¿No tienen autonomía?

R. No tenemos número fiscal ni cuenta bancaria. En 2015 pedimos al ministerio quedarnos con los ingresos de las entradas y de la tienda. Hablamos de medio millón de euros, una cantidad ridícula en términos internacionales. Se nos negó. La tienda del museo en realidad es un bazar de objetos portugueses, no se hace marca, apenas vende reproducciones de las obras del museo.

P. ¿Qué ganarían con la autonomía?

R. Según una consultora, aumentarían a 800.000 los visitantes, yo creo que se llegaría al millón, y se cuadruplicarían los ingresos. Es absurdo que el Estado desperdicie la capacidad de una de las pocas instituciones portuguesas de prestigio internacional.