UK-Belgian trade: reason for optimism in a time of uncertainty?

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By Olivier van Horenbeeck
Chair of the British Chamber’s Business Development Committee

With the UK’s membership of the EU coming under increasingly heavy scrutiny in recent years, wouldn’t it be interesting to know what UK, Luxembourg and Belgian (UK-BeLux) businesses actually think of the EU’s impact on their international activities, and what their business perspectives are on the UK’s future membership status?

That’s what the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain (BLCC) and the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium thought. As a pre-cursor to our annual celebration of success stories in current UK-Belgium trade at the Golden Bridge Awards, we undertook an economic confidence survey to learn more about the outlook. With Belgium and Luxembourg’s geographical and political locations as gateways for the UK to the rest of Europe, the survey collected opinions on business confidence, government support for exporters, barriers to trading internationally, and the impact of the EU on business.

EU seen as having positive impact on business

In general, respondents were very optimistic about the impact the EU has on the business environment in Europe: more than two-thirds saw a positive impact, whereas only one in seven saw a negative impact. More than three quarters of respondents would prefer that the UK remains within the EU, yet the proposed UK referendum on continued EU membership is not being perceived as a major factor, with almost all respondents saying it won’t have an impact on their business planning. Despite the general optimism, regulatory compliance remains a significant hurdle for trade within the EU. Other problems are a lack of information and the local employment laws.

A vast majority of the respondents are more confident about the future of their business (only one in ten are less confident) and expect their organisations to grow (only one in twelve are expecting a decrease in staffing), and all expect revenue to grow or remain steady.

Helping us helping businesses

Besides the positive outlook on business clearly detected above, I am also happy to report that all of the respondents found that trade support services such as Chambers of Commerce and government support are helpful. Besides offering food for thought on general UK-BeLux business confidence, the survey also provided us with some constructive feedback and helpful input to consider for our own future Chamber activities. Many thanks to all the organisations who contributed to the survey!

Through the annual Golden Bridge Trade & Export Awards, the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain (BLCC) and the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium puts the spotlight on recent success stories in export and trade. Now in its 18th year, the 2014 edition will see the Netherlands British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) joining the Golden Bridge Awards to make it a truly UK-Benelux event! Would you like to celebrate with us in London on 20 November? Or maybe even apply for a Golden Bridge Award yourself? Read more here.

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