The federal Minister for the Economy, Kris Peeters (Flemish Christian Democrats) said that the draft Brexit agreement, concluded between the negotiators of the UK and the EU last week, is a “step in the right direction.” His comments follow a meeting of the Brexit High Level Group. The group, the purpose of which is to monitor the impact on Belgium of the British exit from the EU, supports the text.
Kris Peeters says that the agreement anticipates a transition period, leaving time to negotiate a future relationship with the UK. Given that it is far from certain that this document will actually be approved, Belgian companies should continue preparations for all scenarios, including “no deal”.
An analysis by the Brexit High Level Group, shows that a lack of agreement could lead to additional customs duties of €2.2 billion for Belgium, and a loss of more than 40,000 jobs.
However, on Tuesday the Brexit High Level Group congratulated Michel Barnier, the European Brexit negotiator, “who has regularly updated us during the process and has clearly taken account of Belgian economic interests.” The group added, “The draft agreement is a good basis for a future relationship with the United Kingdom.”
The agreement itself includes a transition period until the end of 2020, a period which could be extended. Moreover, it contains a political declaration around future relations and a “backstop” intended to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The “backstop” will apply if the Europeans and the British do not find a better solution, to avoid such a scenario, by the end of the transition period.