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Economy minister on Brexit visit to London

Feb 15, 2017
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Federal economy minister Kris Peeters has returned from a two-day visit to London for talks with government and business representatives concerning Brexit, the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. He expressed the Belgian government’s hope for a rapid transition to a new economic relationship with the country.

“The United Kingdom is one of Belgium’s most important trading partners,” Peeters said after the visit. “In the longer term, Belgian businesses would like to see an economic co-operation with the UK on a level close to the single market. What struck me in London was that our businesses are moving along the same lines as the British business world.”

At the same time, he admitted, “it is clear that it will not be legally or legislatively possible to negotiate the future trade relationship together with the Brexit. That means there will have to be a transition period if we are to limit economic damage.”

Peeters met David Gauke, chief secretary to the treasury, and with Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry. He also took part in a round table with about 20 representatives of the British financial services industry.

Gauke assured him that the government intends to stick with its timetable of triggering Article 50 – the beginning of Brexit proceedings – next month. In his talks with business representatives, meanwhile, Peeters said that he found the British to be broadly in agreement with their Belgian counterparts in seeking close co-operation with as much openness as possible.

“It would seem that Belgian and British companies have the same concerns,” he said. “For companies it’s not as important whether Brexit is hard or soft. Far more important is that the new relationships that result ensure trade and economic growth. What counts is a soft landing – a transitional arrangement that gives governments and businesses the chance to prepare for the new situation.”

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