A badly negotiated Brexit may have a “significantly adverse” impact on the Belgian economy. This is the warning in a report produced by Paul Buyse (particularly well known for being the former President of Bekaert) submitted yesterday (Monday) to the Prime Minister. Ordered last June by the Minister for the Economy, Kris Peeters, the study emphasises that the United Kingdom is the fourth largest market for Belgian export businesses. Belgian businesses export more than 30 billion euros of goods and services per year to Britain.
The balance of trade between both countries is in the black for Belgium, by 16 billion euros. Belgium has particularly significant exports to the United Kingdom in the chemical, food and textile industries, but also does significant British export business in the road transport and port sectors.
The report authors are insisting that, faced with this situation, it is therefore particularly important for Belgium to end up with an amicable divorce from Great Britain.
Such a separation must maintain the essential elements already achieved between the two countries, whilst operating within the European Single Market. The deal must offer the best possible legal security to businesses.
The Minister for the Economy referred to the British Prime Minister, Theresa May’s, recent views. He commented that, “The issue is not about knowing whether we will be faced with a hard or soft Brexit. Rather it is one of knowing whether the landing will be hard or soft.”
So that all shocks are avoided, the report, produced by Belgium’s employers’ federations in collaboration with the National Bank of Belgium (NBB) and the FPS Economy, advocates a series of transitional measures. In addition there should be European-level support measures for the most affected businesses.
Apart from potential threats, Brexit does, however, offer a series of opportunities for the Belgian economy (in particularly within the financial and pharmaceutical sectors) given the Belgian economy’s geographical proximity to European decision-making centres.
As well as calling for action from the Belgian authorities, the report also insists upon the importance of a European response to Brexit.
It thus pleads for the enhancement of the European Project and monetary union, concentrating upon essential tasks, and better communication of European achievements.
Buyse concludes, “It is time for the European Union to wake up and play the role that lives up to Europe’s expectations.”
The Brussels Times