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The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)

I have an anouncement to make to the House arising out of the Treaty signed between this country and Portugal in the year 1373 between His Majesty King Edward III and King Ferdinand and Queen Eleanor of Portugal.

This Treaty was reinforced in various forms by Treaties of 1386, 1643, 1654, 166o, 1661, 1703 and 1815 and in a secret declaration of 1899. In more modern times, the validity of the old Treaties was recognised in the Treaties of Arbitration concluded with Portugal in 1904 and 1914.

Article I of the Treaty of 1373 runs as follows: In the first place we settle and covenant that there shall be from this day forward … true, faithful, constant, mutual and perpetual friendships, unions, alliances and needs of sincere affection and that as true and faithful friends we shall henceforth, reciprocally, be friends to friends and enemies to enemies, and shall assist, maintain and uphold each other mutually, by sea and by land, against all men that may live or die.

This engagement has lasted now for over 600 years and is without parallel in world history.

I have now to announce its latest application. At the outset of the war the Portuguese Government, in full agreement with His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, adopted a policy of neutrality with a view to preventing the war spreading into the Iberian Peninsula.

The Portuguese Government have repeatedly stated, most recently in Dr. Salazar’s speech of 27th April, that the above policy is in no way inconsistent with the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance which was re-affirmed by the Portuguese Government in the early days of the war.

His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, basing themselves upon this ancient Alliance, have now requested the Portuguese Government to accord them certain facilities in the Azores which will enable better protection to be provided for merchant shipping in the Atlantic.

The Portuguese Government have agreed to grant this request, and arrangements, which enter into force immediately, have been concluded between the two Governments regarding (1) the conditions governing the use of the above facilities by His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and (2) British assistance in furnishing essential material and supplies to the Portuguese armed forces and the maintenance of the Portuguese national economy.

The Agreement concerning the use of facilities in the Azores is of a temporary nature only, and in no way prejudices the maintenance of Portuguese sovereignty over Portuguese territory. All British Forces will be withdrawn from the Azores at the end of hostilities. Nothing in this Agreement affects the continued desire of the Portuguese Government, with which His Majesty’s Government have declared themselves in full sympathy, to continue their policy of neutrality on the European mainland and thus maintain a zone of peace in the Iberian Peninsula.

In the view of His Majesty’s Government, this Agreement should give new life and vigour to the Alliance which has so long existed between the United Kingdom and Portugal to their mutual advantage.

It not only confirms and strengthens the political guarantees resulting from the Treaties of Alliance, but also affords a new proof of Anglo-Portuguese friendship and provides an additional guarantee for the development of this friendship in the future. On the conclusion of these negotiations my right hon.

Friend the Foreign Secretary, who has, I think, conducted them with the very greatest skill and patience, has exchanged most cordial messages with the Portuguese President of the Council.

In his message, my right hon. Friend affirmed his conviction that the facilites now granted by the Portuguese Government would greatly contribute to the effective defence of our shipping and thus prove an important factor in shortening the war. He added that the Agreement would give fresh vitality to the ancient Alliance and enhance the close and friendly relations which have so long subsisted between Portugal and Great Britain.

In replying to this message, Dr. Salazar stated that he shared the hope that the facilities granted by Portugal to her Ally would help to bring about greater safety for shipping in the Atlantic and that he trusted that this new proof of Portugal’s loyalty to her traditions would fortify the secular Alliance and serve to draw still closer the bonds of friendship between the two peoples.

I take this opportunity of placing on record the appreciation by His Majesty’s Government, which I have no doubt is shared by Parliament and the British nation, of the attitude of the Portuguese Government, whose loyalty to their British Ally never wavered in the darkest hours of the war.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby

Will my right hon. Friend draw the attention of the Government of Southern Ireland to the attitude adopted by Portugal?

Mr. Ivor Thomas

If Germany should regard this very welcome step as a hostile act, will it be made known that the very fullest assistance will be given to Portugal in resisting any action by Germany?

The Prime Minister

I am not prepared to add anything to the statement I have made.

Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward

Has my right hon. Friend any information as to whether a similar agreement has been concluded, or is in process of being concluded, between the Government of Portugal and the Government of the United States?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I have no information on that.


House of Commons Dec 12 October 1943 [vol 392 cc716-9716]