The Government of Flanders organised its second Brexit roundtable meeting on the 17th of April in the presence of representatives of the Flemish industry and civil society.
Guest speaker Stefaan De Rynck, advisor to top negotiator Michel Barnier, took stock of the current situation after (almost) one year of negotiations. According to him, the European Union's negotiating strategy has already paid off for civil rights and for the financial regulation, considered by some to be unachievable. De Rynck also called for a sense of reality with regard to avoiding costs and new barriers. In his opinion, the possibility for a trade-friendly Brexit is severely limited by the current British political positions, which preclude continued participation in the internal market and customs union. Therefore, the European Council has indicated that its current offer – which is contained in the guidelines of March - may evolve in the light of changes in the UK negotiation position.
Minister-president Geert Bourgeois, who presided over the meeting, emphasized the importance of a soft Brexit for the Flemish, EU and UK economy. According to Bourgeois, the negotiations must result in a trade-friendly Brexit, with UK partnerships in different fields. The soft Brexit should also include a macro-regional strategy for the North Sea region.
The Flemish representatives of industry and civil society emphasized the need for a soft brexit and expressed their support for the government’s approach. More specifically, participants pointed out that the current transition period until the end of 2020 is too short. Furthermore, some participants stressed their concerns about the impact of Brexit on their supply chain and on the certification of products. They were pleased with the assistance of Flanders Investment & Trade so far. However, work has only begun. Companies, certainly SME’s, need to be well informed about the consequences of Brexit and need to receive the necessary guidance.
General Representation of the Government of Flanders at the Permanent Representation of Belgium at the European Union