The consequences of Brexit for Belgium

After the extension of the article 50 process, the UK will be leaving not just the European Union (EU) but also the Single Market and the Customs Union. Depending on the terms of withdrawal, consequences are expected, whether these turn out to be serious or less so.

If a deal is reached

Once the UK notified the EU of its intention to leave, negotiations began with a view to agreeing the easiest possible withdrawal from the EU.

In the end, the EU and the British Government reached agreement on the withdrawal, and the European Council approved it on 25 November 2018.

The draft withdrawal agreement concerns managing the consequences of Brexit, including:

  • citizens’ rights
  • the Irish border
  • the financial arrangements
  • managing the transition period

The terms of the future UK-EU relationship have been approved separately from the withdrawal agreement, and became the subject of a joint political declaration that forms the basis for the future partnership.

The measures prescribed in those texts only apply if the British Parliament agree to them.

In the event of no deal

The Belgian Cabinet of Ministers approved a bill at second reading on 8 February 2019 to prepare for the possibility that the UK will be leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement. This bill will only become law if there is no agreement, and will be a stop-gap measure to address the key problems at Belgian federal level that will arise from Brexit:

  • Asylum and migration: residence rights for British citizens and their families
  • Energy: security of gas supply by Interconnector (UK) Ltd
  • Employment: the first-job requirement for young workers of foreign origin aged under 26
  • Social affairs: the consequences of Brexit in the various fields of social security
  • Finance: legal changes regarding access to investment services, and to the statutory footing of and oversight of companies providing capital management and investment advice
  • Economy: new rules on the running and oversight of insurance brokers conducting ‘authorised subscriber’ activities

The ministers and administrative bodies concerned are drawing up measures of a technical and administrative nature. It is envisaged that Belgium will boost staffing at Customs and the Federal Food Safety Agency (FAVV/AFSCA). Other Belgian government bodies, such as the Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs (Foreign Ministry) and the Federal Police, are also planning to recruit.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has been preparing an emergency action plan for certain sectors. There are 14 measures for sectors which would see citizens and companies severely affected in the event of a no deal: these include financial services, air traffic, customs and climate policy.

These measures apply to a limited number of areas only, ones where it is absolutely essential to guarantee the EU’s fundamental interests and where it would not be sufficient simply to have preparatory measures in place. They are, in principle, temporary measures, restricted in scope and unilaterally adopted by the EU.