On 29 March 2017, the United Kingdom indicated its desire to leave the European Union. Shortly after, negotiations about the withdrawal started. On 14 November 2018 the negotiators reached an agreement. This Withdrawal Agreement will assure an orderly exit. In addition, the treaty provides for a transitional phase which should expire on 31 December 2020 but can be extended once. The UK remains subject to the full EU acquis during this transitional period but can no longer participate in formal decision-making procedures. Until the end of the transition phase, the UK is therefore part of the customs union and the internal market. We aim at negotiating a new treaty-based relationship between the two by the end of the transitional arrangement, based on a Political Declaration to the Withdrawal Agreement. If the EU and the UK fail to negotiate a cooperation agreement before the end of the transitional phase, the Withdrawal Agreement provides a setback regulation. This arrangement means that a customs union remains in force between the EU and the UK, with special arrangements for Northern Ireland. Consent of both parties is required to terminate it. This avoids a hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland, part of the UK. Although the Political Declaration shows that the UK and the EU set the bar high in terms of the future cooperation model, the UK government is sticking to its intention to step out of the internal market and the desire to pursue its own trade policy separate from the EU. This means that Flanders-UK relations will be hindered by barriers that are not present today. The extent to which depends on the future cooperation agreement.
Analysis by the various policy domains of the Government of Flanders, Statistics Flanders and academic studies show that the impact of Brexit on Flanders will be significant. This impact stems from the close bilateral relations in many domains, not least economic.
Flanders therefore adopts a constructive attitude and wishes to maximize the weight on the negotiations so that the negative consequences for our region can be reduced. In an attempt to weigh in on the negotiations, the Government of Flanders has identified its priorities for the different phases of the negotiations in a vision statement. Flanders consistently advocates a trade-friendly brexit and the conclusion of a comprehensive and thorough trade agreement. This agreement on future relations should also allow for low-threshold cooperation in other domains such as fisheries, transport, energy, environment, safety, research and education. Maintaining a level playing field and fair financial contributions is crucial. In-depth negotiations will start after March 29, 2019, Brexit Day.
The transition period provided for in the Withdrawal Treaty not only offers the opportunity to develop a qualitative post-brexit relationship, but also gives Flemish citizens and companies the chance to prepare for this new situation. This is necessary in view of the great impact of brexit in Flanders. To assist companies in their preparation and to improve the Flemish economy’s resilience to the effects of brexit, the Government of Flanders launched a "Brexit Action Plan" on 16 November. The government provides a budget of two million euros for the implementation of this plan.
Read all about Brexit and Flanders on www.fdfa.be/en/brexit.
22 November 2018