Brexit is now only 56 days away. According to the Belgian Employers’ Federation there are some 25.000 companies in Belgium which trade with the United Kingdom, of which only one fifth have taken measures to prepare for a hard Brexit. It is estimated that a hard Brexit will cost Belgium a 2% cut in GDP and some 40.000 jobs.

On a purely practical level the main concern is to faciliate the flow of goods across what could well become a hard external border of the EU. The same Belgian Employers’ Federation has already put in place procedures allowing companies in Belgium to obtain the required customs status to be able to ship goods across an EU external frontier.

For its part, the Belgian government, which currently has only interim status, recently approved a draft statute proposal providing for temporary measures to deal with the following matters in the event of a hard Brexit:

  • Rights of UK citizens in Belgium;
  • Energy supplies;
  • Social security;
  • Financial intermediaries in capital markets;
  • Insurance intermediaries;
  • Public health agencies.

The government has also taken measures to hire the required extra customs staff but is apparently having problems in locating suitable candidates.

Last but not least, the Belgian Tax Administration has issued a series of notices describing the import formalities, including VAT filings, that will be required in order to import goods from the UK into Belgium.

Only time will tell us whether all these measures will become necessary and will pass onto the statute book.

By Charles Price