Flanders approves framework to support businesses impacted by Brexit

Flanders approves framework to support businesses impacted by Brexit
Tobacco shop near the Belgium French border in 2019, which attracted a lot of UK customers before Brexit. Credit: Belga DIRK WAEM

Although it has resulted in the relocation of several businesses, helping Flanders reap billions of euros in new projects, the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union has created a lot of hindrance for many companies in the region.

In light of Brexit, the EU set up the Brexit Adjustment Reserve (BAR) to alleviate its impact. Flanders, one of the hardest-hit regions as a result of new restrictions, is entitled to €223 million of this reserve. The Regional Government has now formally approved the framework to determine how the funds will be distributed.

"Trading with the UK has become more difficult but by adapting quickly and providing good guidance, you can gain a stronger position, and trade with the UK will remain very interesting," Flemish Economy Minister Jo Brouns said in a statement.

Continued partner, but more complicated situation

Flanders has, since the UK's departure from the EU last year, stressed the importance of remaining a trading partner, mainly due to Belgium's proximity with the island nation. "We want to continue to position ourselves in the future as the logical hub for the export of British products and as the gateway for the import of British products to the European continent."

In 2021, the UK was the Region's eighth-largest export destination and sixth-largest supplier of goods, however, Flanders recorded a decline of 2.6% in exports to the UK, "which is striking, as the British are one of the few declining destinations among the top destinations for Flemish exports."

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Meanwhile, companies that depended on importing or exporting to the UK have seen their customs costs and the administrative burden of their transport skyrocket.

In consultation with the various sectors, Brouns developed this framework to provide a "shock absorber" for businesses that can demonstrate that they were already trading with the UK before Brexit, and that they have suffered losses as a result of the UK's departure.

"I call on all our businesses that have suffered from Brexit to submit their application. Our companies must also be able to seize the opportunities in the market in the future," Brouns said. It is also possible to reimburse costs incurred in the past via the framework.

The fund is managed by VLAIO and grant applications for support can be submitted via this organisation until 1 July 2023.

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