Portugal sets up task force to lure post-Brexit investment

LISBON, March 30 (Reuters) - Portugal has set up a task force that will focus on luring investment away from Britain following its decision to leave the European Union, a government minister said on Thursday.

Many companies are pondering a shift of jobs and investment to continental Europe and some think London risks damaging its status as Europe’s biggest financial centre after Britain formally began its divorce from the European Union on Wednesday.

“The cabinet approved the creation of a temporary structure named ‘Portugal In’ that is designed to attract investments that want to stay in the EU after the United Kingdom’s exit. It will report directly to the prime minister,” government relations minister Maria Leitao Marques told a news conference.

The mandate of the task force will run through to the end of 2019, after the British exit comes into effect in late March that year.

Portugal, which emerged from an international bailout in 2014 after a debt crisis, is seeking more direct foreign investment to help the economy grow so that the country can leave its debt woes behind.

The new body is tasked with “promoting factors that differentiate Portugal, namely in terms of human resources and its geoeconomic position, to dynamise the entrepreneurial capacity and jobs creation,” the minister said.

Portugal is continental Europe’s westernmost country, which allows for an ease of travel between Britain, Europe, Africa and the Americas. It boasts a warm coastal Atlantic climate, sandy beaches and low rents, and is already home to many British expats, some of them with business interests in the country. (Reporting By Sergio Goncalves and Andrei Khalip; Editing by Toby Davis)