|Head of State
Charles Michel (The Reformist Movement, from October 2014)
|Size||30,528 km2 (11,787 sq mi)|
|MEPs||21 (Joined the EU in 1958)|
|Next legislative election||2024|
|Presidency of the Council||January – June 2024|
|Last meeting with Boris Johnson||None held to date|
|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 has 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||“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.”
“I think it was crystal clear what the consequences for Great Britain are: This is a big mess, an enormous damage.”
“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,”
“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,” “But you have to be strong and convince the 27 countries that our interests are to have a common negotiation.”
|Belgium’s priorities||Belgians went to the polls in May 2019. The right-wing New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) – which supports a break of Belgium’s norther region of Flanders from southern Wallonia – won the vote with 24.9%. The far-right Vlaams Belang – also advocating for a break-up – made a big win in Flanders as well, finishing second with 18.5%.
In Wallonia, Prime Minister Charles Michel’s Reformist Movement just about maintained its vote share with 21.5%, closely behind the Socialist Party which came in first with 26.1%. Striking was how the Green parties surged in Brussels and Wallonia as well.
The result means it will likely again be difficult to form a federal government. While the N-VA has shown willingness to do business with Vlaams Belang, all other centrist parties has vowed to never enter into a coalition with this party. N-VA and Vlaams Belang do not have a majority together.
Last time, it took Belgium 541 days to form a government.
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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