Portugal calls for EU states to be frozen out of bloc for speaking out like Britain

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Prime minister Antonio Costa proposed a two-speed Europe with member states supportive of free-spending and joint debt at its core. He said countries that reject the bloc’s values and principles of democratic and media freedom, as well as solidarity in times of crisis, should be shunned to the periphery. In a speech at the Catholic University in Lisbon, Mr Costa said there were EU states who want “common values” and others are simply members for economic gain.

His proposal would see frugal countries – Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands – who rejected larger budget contributions turned into outcast members.

Rule-breakers, such as Hungary and Poland, which are under investigation for alleged abuses of judicial and media freedoms, as well as a crackdown on non-governmental organisations, would also be kept at a distance from the central members.

EU capitals would have to sign up to the Brussels diktat before being allowed to participate in the very centre of the bloc’s plans.

Mr Costa said: “There is a fundamental debate in the European Union that we have to hold, not around a regionalised vision as in the past between North and South, or East and West.

“But about the real dichotomy that exists in the European Union, which is expressed in debates such as the rule of law, migration policy or how solidarity is translated into moments of economic and social crisis like the present one.”

He claimed there “are now two visions that are now passing through the different countries of the European Union”.

“Basically, it is whether the EU is a union of values or whether, on the contrary, it is primarily an economic instrument to generate economic value,” he added.

“This distinction is very important because the lack of understanding of this distinction has certainly led to the departure of the United Kingdom, which saw the EU as a platform for generating value, but not something that resulted from sharing fundamental values.”

Mr Costa suggested the Netherlands could be a country to follow the UK out of the bloc because the Hague is now vocal on fiscal prudence.

“There was no longer a member state defending the economic positions and there are now several countries defending the positions that only the United Kingdom apparently defended in isolation,” he said.

“We have to ask ourselves whether the best way is to rigidly implement it, or whether we should look at the EU in a spirit of greater flexibility, assuming that, just as Schengen or the euro is not for everyone, we have to have variable geometrics here in the future of the European Union.”

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The concept of a two-speed Europe is backed by French President Emmanuel Macron and arch-federalist Guy Verhofstadt, who is a vocal supporter of a “United States of Europe”.

Critics have claimed it would create a new “Iron Curtain” across the bloc as member states are cut-off from Brussels’ most ambitious plans.

But its supporters feel that separating member states is the only way to push through policies, such as defence cooperation and financial services, in the future.

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One EU source said: “It’s quite something to reduce the solidarity of loyal net contributors like the UK to an economy-centric approach.

“At the same time, it misconstrues the quintessential origins of this corporation, namely: the internal market and everything it has brought to countries like the UK and Portugal.

“Costa’s assertion is a false dichotomy between values versus economy. It’s about being in the club and playing by its rules or being out.”

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