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This week we sat down with Chair of the UK-EU Relations Committee, Tom Parker, to gain an insight into what the upcoming plans are for the committee.

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What are the UK-EU Relations Working Group’s plans for the next year?

Our plan is to remain at the heart of the Brexit discussion, recognised by our members and both sides of the negotiating tables as a bringer of valuable insight and content. We will continue our programmes of events, focused on key aspects of the Brexit discussion, such as customs arrangements, access to the EU internal market, and skilled labour. We also intend to keep dialoguing with business groups and other organisations from across Europe and beyond to build out greater understanding of the impact of Brexit to business.

 

Going forwards, what work are you most excited about being undertaken by the Committee?    

The work which puts the Chamber slap bang at the heart of the Brexit debate. For example, recognising that the complexities of a future arrangement between the UK and EU are so great that it is unlikely it will be completed by March 2019, the Chamber has called for a transition deal to be agreed once the details of separation have been settled. In the autumn we will launch discussion around the detail of such an arrangement, a topic which has as yet not been covered in any depth but which is critical to business and ultimately the success of future EU-UK relations.

 

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What have you enjoyed most from being the chair of the UK-EU Relations Committee?

Given the scale and scope of the Brexit challenge, I have particularly enjoyed working with our members and learning from their different perspectives and detailed insights on the consequences of Brexit. Whether that be the legal minutiae of adopting a transition deal, to the challenges of customs and rules of origin for those in manufacturing, to equivalence in services, there are so many details that do not make the headlines but that cannot afford to be missed in these negotiations.

 

What are you most proud of during your time so far as chair of the Committee?

I think the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium can be proud of the fact that it has become a reference on Brexit because of our related activity, knowledge and insight. Over the past 12 months we have been interviewed by the BBC, RTBF, Sky, Politico to name but a few, made key note speeches at events like the European Business Summit and seen an expanded membership interest as a result of our Brexit related activities.

 

Why are the work and events run by the Committee beneficial to someone in a business?

As with the wider Chamber, we provide a platform for discussion, sharing of insight and networking. With a topic as big as Brexit, working, talking and learning from others is key to meeting the challenge and seizing the opportunity of future UK-EU relations.

 

If you would like to learn more about the work by the UK-EU Relations Committee click here

The 2017 Golden Bridge Trade and Investment Awards present an exciting opportunity for UK companies trading or investing in Belgium, and Belgian & Luxembourg companies trading or investing in the UK to showcase their bilateral success to an international jury and celebrate their achievements during an exclusive ceremony hosted by the British Ambassador to Belgium, Alison Rose at the British Residence in Brussels.

As part of our 2017 Golden Bridge Trade and Investment Awards promotion we spoke with Helen Kemp, Group Communications Manager at Renewi plc (formerly known as Shanks Group plc) to see how they have been making use of their 2016 Golden Bridge Award. Renewi, which was created in 2017 by the merger of Shanks Group plc and Van Gansewinkel Groep B.V., is a leading waste-to-product business ideally positioned to be part of the solution to some of the main environmental problems facing society today: reducing waste, avoiding pollution, and preventing the unnecessary use of finite natural resources.

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Shanks Group plc collecting their award from HMA Alison Rose

What has been the response internally/externally to winning a Golden Bridge Trade & Investment Award?
We had a great reaction to the award win both internally and externally. Winning the award was a proud achievement for us as it highlights our commitment and investment in Belgium and the importance it has within our portfolio.

 

Why do you think participating in such events is valuable for a company?
Getting recognition, such as the Golden Bridge Award, cements our position as a leading waste-to-product business and a key contributor to the circular economy in Belgium. Such awards not only motivate our teams but also show our customers, local communities and other stakeholders that we lead in our field.

 

How have you used your success in your promotion/communication/marketing strategy?
We have promoted our award win both on our social media channels and on our website. We also highlight it in a number of publications including our annual report and internal magazine.

 

What did you enjoy most about the awards process?
We really enjoyed the entire process – from writing our entry, presenting our business, meeting the ambassador and the rest of the panel and of course attending the awards where we were grateful to receive an award!

 
What is your company working towards in 2017? Are you engaging in new projects?
Since our merger earlier this year, we are now primarily focused on integrating our two great businesses. We will always have three top priorities of keeping each other safe, serving our customers and delivering our commitments.

 

What advice would you have for 2017 applicants?
We would advise 2017 applicants to not be shy to show why you should win the award. At Renewi we have a fantastic business in Belgium and we were happy to promote it!

 

The deadline to submit your applications for the 2017 Golden Bridge Awards is now 29 September. Traditionally consisting of three categories – Best Newcomer, Best Small/Medium Sized Enterprise and the Golden Bridge Trade and Investment Award – applying for and winning an award is entirely free of charge.
For more information about the awards, please visit our website or contact us via email.

This week we sat down with Chair of Brussels New Generation Joseph Lemaire to gain an insight into what the upcoming plans are for our young professionals network.

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What are you most proud of in your time as Brussels New Generation chair so far?

The work done by the whole Brussels New Generation team. Every member of the core group has a very busy schedule with their daily job but still makes time to put together a great and regular program that attracts new and interesting people to every new event.

 

What does being chair of Brussels New Generation bring you?

I am constantly learning and it makes me go out of my comfort zone in many ways. I get to know young professionals like me and learn from their own experiences. I also have the chance to regularly meet business leaders who can always share professional and personal insights. Finally, part of the role is also learning how to lead a team and it is definitely something I enjoy doing.

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Teams discuss their answers in our pub quiz!

Which Brussels New Generation event are you most looking forward to?

All of them, seriously. One of our main focus is to have a program with a wide variety of events (training, leadership, networking, charity). That way, there is never a routine and every event is interesting to any young professional. But if I had to choose one event, it would be the Brussels New Generation Summer Cocktail (July 5 at Aloft Schuman as of 6PM), perfect to kick off summer and meet new people!

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Digging in at the Brussels Bake Off!

What are Brussels New Generation’s plans for the coming year?

We will keep having fun and organising regular events that are interesting and relevant. That is very important to us. We will also keep working on attracting more new young professionals from a variety of backgrounds. Finally, we will strive to become an even better platform for young professionals to meet and network.

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Young professionals at one of our CEO breakfasts

Why should people come along to a Brussels New Generation event?

First of all, Brussels New Generation events are free and that matters when you’re a young professional. It is also an opportunity to follow professional trainings and meet business leaders in an exclusive setting. Brussels New Generation events allow you to meet new people in Brussels and to learn about many other organisations and companies. Finally, coming to an event is a good way to chat with us and let us know what kind of event you would like us to organise next time.

 

If you would like to learn more about the work by Brussels New Generation click here and to see what events our young professionals network has coming up click here!

The British Chamber of Commerce in Brussels is calling on both Britain and the EU to focus on jobs and the economy in Brexit negotiations.

“We need the best possible agreement between the UK and the EU, that takes into account the highly interconnected nature of our economies. If we’re to avoid unnecessary damage to jobs and businesses across Europe we’ve got to have clarity, certainty, and practicability” said Tom Parker, chair of UK-EU relations for British Chamber.

Given the complexity and time-sensitivity of the negotiations, we believe this will be a two step process and that the two parties should agree as soon as possible to an amicable divorce, with the rights of residents, financial settlement, and the sensitive questions related to Northern Ireland being resolved. They should then agree to a transitional arrangement that provides legal certainty for a clearly defined period during which a satisfactory and comprehensive agreement on the new EU-UK relationship can be reached.

Delivering a seamless business environment between the UK and EU27 will be very complex, particularly given the limited amount of time available. That’s why the British Chamber has established a set of 10 guiding priorities, which we believe must underpin the future agreement. “Ongoing access to the single market, seamless customs arrangements and availability of skilled labour are absolute musts for any future UK-EU partnership” Parker added.

 

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About the British Chamber

The British Chamber is unique: an international network that connects your business with other businesses, a wide spectrum of national and European policymakers, and customers and clients. We can facilitate your relationships with the European policymakers and Institutions that your business needs to reach. We are a platform for developing your business whether just starting up or well established. We are the gateway to a global trade and investment business solution. Our network of business support services and partnerships with the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), the Belgian regional investment agencies in Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia, and the European (COBCOE) and global network of UK Chambers of Commerce gives you the direct contact and connections you need to succeed.

 

Contacts

Uzma Lodhi – Head of Communications – uzma@britishchamber.be

This week we sat down with our Chief Executive Glenn Vaughan to learn what makes the British Chamber and him tick, his vision for the chamber and where Aston Villa’s rightful place in football is.

 

What one word describes you best?

Optimistic.

And if I had my full wishlist, Aston Villa would make a rapid return to the top of European football, where they belong.

 

What is the biggest challenge the chamber is facing?

You’d be a bit surprised if I didn’t say Brexit right? And while I don’t have much time for those who tell us to forget all the difficulties and try to find the opportunities, the challenge is what makes life interesting.

Right now our focus is on getting the negotiating parties to prioritise jobs and business rather than seeming to accept the prospect of significant negative impacts on both sides. That’s simply not acceptable.

I think that in the medium term, the UK and EU relationship can play an essential part in the success of Europe. We all need Europe to be an attractive place to create, build and sell.

We need the negotiating parties to get on with making a fair and sensible agreement.

As for challenges, apart from those facing Aston Villa, that’s probably enough to be going on with.

 

What are the most important traits for a successful leader?

Being right. Or more likely, finding someone who could be. And listening to them.

Luckily, the British Chamber is full of people with ideas, talent and commitment. Enabling them to achieve things is the best way to make a difference.

 

What are you most proud of during your time at the chamber?

The British Chamber really is the most European and international of chambers of commerce. It always was – but it’s become even more so in recent years.

Seeing that reflected across the leadership team of the chamber – and throughout our membership – is great.

 

How do you see the chamber changing over the next two years?

We need to make sure we’re in good shape to help our members get their voice heard. Our big strength has always been enabling our members to engage with the key decision makers and influencers and speak for themselves.

Responding to Brexit has illustrated the importance of the chamber having its own voice, and that will be a capacity we’ll build on. Including at the bilateral UK-Belgium level where British investment is so important.

But we’ll also need to be more commercially focused in helping companies enter the Belgian market, and grow their businesses as a launchpad into the rest of Europe. If anything, British companies will need us more than ever, so that really is an opportunity.

 

 

The British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium has not always been around, although it may feel like it! The origin of the British Chamber is in 1898 and has since then carried out work across the years, only taking a break when war has broken out across Europe!

There are not many documents remaining from the beginning of the chamber in Belgium. The first President of the chamber, which documents still exist of, is C. W. Twelves who was president from 1910-1914 as well as the secretarie-general B.G. de M. Taunton 1910-1934. As shown in the 1978 Articles of Association below the British Chamber in Belgium became incorporated on the 27th of April 1910 and used to be the chamber for Belgium and Luxembourg.

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The British Chamber in Belgium was nearly not to be, as World War 2 spread across Europe. The chamber, then based in Antwerp, decided to postpone all chamber activity until after the war just before Belgium was invaded. It was started back up again in 1948 under president W.N. Doley, OBE

As Travelling across the channel was a lot harder and rarer for members of the UK government back then, visits and events were much less frequent but on a larger scale. One of the largest events we still have the event plan of is the 1960 Golden Jubilee Banquet held 11th February 1960 in Brussels. With Belgian, Luxembourg, UK and Commenwealth officials in attendence it was a grand event. As shown below guests were dressed to impress at the rare visits of foreign government officials

 

The now very polished chamber annual report1980 annual reports and directories were not always this way. Back in the 1980s the chamber would release a monthly Business Journal you can see on the right which would include what important speaches had been given at the chamber and any recent chamber functions that had taken place.

Members too also had the chance to take out a page to promote themselves, although the adverts aren’t what you’d see today! (see below)

 

1980 advert

Overall, the chamber has grown over all of it’s 119 years and been through a lot of changes, from being joint with Luxembourg and being based in Antwerp to what you use today in Brussels. Although events are not all as glamerous as the 1960 Golden Jubilee Banquet, we now host many more events every year all of a high standard and covering a lot more topics than can be in one gathering a year!

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Seb Dance has been an MEP since 2014 and is a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Committee on Development.

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Days at the Parliament can start with a breakfast meeting, a committee-related site visit or a press interview. Then it will often be straight to a meeting of my group, the Socialists and Democrats, before catching up with my Brussels staff about my diary and issues coming up before the Parliament.

Quite a lot of my time is spent on correspondence with constituents via traditional means as well as Twitter. Tweeting thoughts and developments – most of which are concerned with Brexit – are a good way of communicating in real-time what I am up to.

I am a member of the Parliament’s Environment and Development committees, and during committee weeks in Brussels, much of my time will be spent in these meetings. The two committees investigate a range of issues, and I recently acted as the co-ordinator for the Socialist and Democrat Group on the committee of inquiry into the diesel emissions scandal, the report on which came after a year of detailed investigations.

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This week has been a ‘Strasbourg’ or plenary week and my primary area of concern is an oral question on the situation facing the LGBTI community in Chechnya, which happened to occur the day before the International Day Against Homophobia. As well as my committee roles, I am also the European Parliamentary Labour Party’s Spokesperson on LGBTI issues. It was very pleasing to see the Commission and European External Action Service speak out so strongly against the atrocities in Chechnya and send a strong message that the EU will not stand idly by whilst the persecution of LGBTI communities continues.

Evenings in Brussels might involve meeting parliamentary colleagues, to discuss issues and upcoming business over dinner, or speaking to groups about the future of the UK in Europe. If I’m back at home, a typical evening is spent visiting one of the seventy-three Constituency Labour Parties in London, speaking to them about my work in the European Parliament and discussing the latest developments in the post-referendum relations between the EU and UK government.

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Fridays back in London allow me the chance to meet with constituents and to speak to groups across the city, many of whom are concerned about what exactly Brexit will mean for business, industry and citizenship rights. Londoners voted decisively to remain in the referendum last year, and much of my time back home is spent focusing on ensuring those voices are heard over the next two years, fighting to retain our vital access to the Single Market and Customs Union, and calling for the guarantee of the existing rights of EU citizens in the UK.

The UK might be heading out of the European Union, but until that day comes, we must continue to play a full role in the affairs of the Union, including here at the Parliament. To that end, the days of an MEP from the British delegation remain as busy as ever.

To learn more about Seb Dance’s work visit his website: http://www.sebdance.co.uk/
Or follow him on social media: https://twitter.com/SebDance
https://www.facebook.com/SebastianDance

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