Although May has yet to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty of (ironically) Lisbon to formally begin the process of leaving the European Union — as dictated by the referendum, June 23 — her talks with the Portuguese president signal a new agenda for Britain's relationship in the world post-Brexit.
The Anglo- Portuguese Alliance is the oldest alliance in the world that is still in force, dating back to the 14th century — 600 years longer than British membership of what is now the European Union, which is an alliance a mere 43 years old.
In the Middle Ages, English Crusaders assisted Portugal in the Reconquista — the recapture of the Iberian Peninsula from the Islamic Almohad dynasty, for which England was rewarded with the signing, in 1373, of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance which was formalized by the Treaty of Windsor in 1386.
The links between the two nations run deep and include the twinning association between the coastal cities of Bristol, in western England and Porto in northwest Portugal. According to Liz Gamlin, from the Bristol Oporto Association, the association between Britain and Portugal has huge historical and trading significance.
"It goes back as far as John of Gaunt [son of King Edward III of England] whose daughter Philippa married King John I of Portugal and became the Queen Consort of Portugal. So there was a dynastic link between England and Portugal," Liz Gamlin told Sputnik.
Bristol and Porto were — and continue to be — sea trading cities with common history, culture and adventurous outlook. Both Britain and Portugal were exploring nations, forging trade links throughout the world.
The famous explorer John Cabot was sponsored by Henry VII of England to set forth from Bristol to make the first European exploration of the mainland of North America since the Norse Vikings' visits to Vinland in the eleventh century.
In 1703, the Methuen Treaty was signed between the two nations, allowing for special tax arrangements between London and Lisbon. Liz Gamlin told Sputnik: "The Methuen family still live in Corsham, in the West of England, and the Methuen trade agreement was made whereby England exported to Portugal wool cloth and imported port with preferential arrangements."
She said Theresa May's talks with President Rebelo de Sousa mark a significant moment in Britain's new outlook on the world post-Brexit. "We are searching for relationships. This might not seem to be the most obvious one, but it goes back so many centuries. It can't be other than positive for both sides.
"I know Portugal is looking for more trade outlets. It's certainly had some difficult times of late and we know from our friendships, so I would think that any opportunity to trade with the UK would be very welcome," she told Sputnik.