Moves have been afoot for months to turn Portugal into Europe’s top supplier of lithium – the metal used in batteries for electric cars and thus a vital component in the race to keep up with the future. The stumbling block has always been that while this country is already exporting more lithium than any other in Europe, it has no facilities to ‘refine it’.

Talking before Christmas, the ‘new’ secretary of state for energy João Galamba said: “Portugal does not want to be a country that just drills holes in the ground and exports ores”.