Project Brexit

Belgium

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Head of State

Prime Minister

King Philippe

Charles Michel (The Reformist Movement, from October 2014)

Population 11,250,585
Size 30,528 km2 (11,787 sq mi)
MEPs 21 (Joined the EU in 1958)
Next legislative election May 2019
Presidency of the Council January – June 2024
Last meeting with Theresa May  22 November, 2016
Brexit priorities Economically speaking, Belgium has a strong relationship with the UK, which the country will want to maintain. Particularly for the Northern part, Flanders, trade relations with the UK will be high on the agenda. Sectors that are of great importance to Belgium are the chemical industry and machinery and textiles and it will be important for Belgium to include these in a future trade deal. In 2015, 8,8% of all Belgian exports went to the UK. The Belgian Prime Minister has reiterated that 10,000 jobs in Belgium exist thanks to trading relations with the UK.

Another area the two countries work closely together on is security and terrorism. Together with the Netherlands and France the UK and Belgium recently introduced passenger lists and passport checks on those travelling on the international high speed train services. Belgium wants the UK to continue to share intelligence with the EU.

In more general terms, the Belgians want the EU to stay united in their stance on the negotiations. Mr Michel has also emphasised trade talks can only begin once a divorce settlement has been agreed on.

What Mr Michel said on Brexit 27 February 2016

“You can’t have all the advantages of preferential access to the market, and assume none of the consequences of being a member of an economic market.”

29 June 2016

“I think it was crystal clear what the consequences for Great Britain are: This is a big mess, an enormous damage.”

22 Nov 2016

“There is a real desire to work for a ‘smart Brexit’, just as I advocate. This means a Brexit where economic interests are protected on both sides and where we are careful that Brexit is not a starting point of Europe’s dismantlement,”

February 2017

“I can imagine that in the next weeks, in the next months, we will see a strategy from the U.K. in order to reinforce its position in the negotiations,” the Belgian leader said. “I think that we have to be ‘fair play’, but not naïve. From Europe, from the 27 countries, we also have capacities in the negotiations and we also have instruments in our hands for negotiations and I hope it will be possible to find a balance.”

“It will not be easy, and I know the U.K. will certainly try in these negotiations to have parallel negotiations and bilateral negotiations with a few countries,” he said. “But you have to be strong and convince the 27 countries that our interests are to have a common negotiation.” 

Belgium’s priorities Jobs and security are the top priorities for the Belgian government. Belgium is quite a divided country with a very complicated governmental system. Keeping the country together and not giving into Flemish nationalism is also a priority, together with tackling terrorism and rooting out radical Islamists from Brussels.

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