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Preparing for Brexit 

It is less than 5 months until Brexit and the Article 50 deadline on 29 March 2019, and whilst rumours abound of deals, unfortunately – from a business perspective – the spectre of a non-orderly withdrawal outcome remains fully in view. With a few exceptions, it is a wide and deep business consensus that such a no-deal outcome would be an extremely disruptive negative outcome for economic operators on both sides of the Channel. It’s worth repeating – from a business perspective – no deal is the worst deal for everyone.

If there is no withdrawal deal, one might hope there will be side deals covering key issues such as aviation or data, but this cannot be guaranteed, particularly if negotiations break down badly. Consequences will be unpredictable, both politically and economically.

Irrespective of that, we can expect significant disruption at all UK/EU borders – notably with France, Belgium, the Netherlands and in main airports. This is a simple function of the UK leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market without a ready replacement legal framework and with the systems developed to take over.

The situation of the Irish Border in the case of no deal is also unclear – both sides have committed to no ‘hard border’, though both sides may have legal obligations under both EU law in the case of Ireland, and under the WTO in the case of the UK to undertake customs and regulatory checks. Once the UK has left the EU Customs Union and Single Market, there will have to be checks and formalities for goods, the only question is where these checks will take place and exactly what formalities will be applicable.

Preparedness notices from both the EU and the UK Government have flagged the respective legal provisions at the moment of the UK leaving the EU, but do not give a clear roadmap for affected businesses in the case of a collapse of the withdrawal negotiations or a non-ratification by the respective parliaments.

At a minimum, companies should be looking at the potential impact on their supply chains of a potential raising of regulatory and customs barriers, possible queues on both sides of the border as new systems and formalities are introduced, as well as the possible restriction of freedom of movement for staff. On a sector by sector basis, the cessation of regulatory arrangement and licensing may also create new barriers to market.

The British Chamber of Commerce | EU & Belgium will stay close to the UK Government, the EU institutions and the Belgian Authorities during this challenging period. We are the go to organisation that authorities are asking for feedback from on business concerns. Get in touch, use our platform and share your concerns, specific or otherwise so that we can get them to the right people.

Matt Hinde, Fleishman Hillard, and Morten Petersen, EPPA, Co-Chairs of the Future Relations Committee

If you have more questions about the prospect of a no deal Brexit, you can find more information on our website page – What to do if there is no deal?

Our next Brexit event – Brexit and Future Relations – An Update on the Irish Perspective – will take place on the 20th November. You can find more information on our website.

 

 

The EU Committee at the British Chamber of Commerce|EU & Belgium welcomes the newly appointed vice-chairs, who will run for a year mandate. They will help the EU Committee team to shape the programme and provide a platform for engagement. “The EU Committee team is now stronger with a very competent team and I am very confident in their contribution to put key EU legislative files on the agenda that will meet our member’s needs” commented Nikolaus Tacke, EU Committee chair.

A survey that we have conducted in July 2017 showed that only 52% of our members feel confident in the future political prospects of the EU. Our mission for 2018 will be to find ways to enhance a stronger relationship between the policy-makers and our members, through a very strong programme and also around discussions about the Future of Europe.

The British Chamber’s EU Committee for the year 2017-2018 is composed of five task forces covering fundamental EU policy issues. Please find below the list of our leadership and task force team for 2018.

EU new team table

18 months before the European Parliament’s election and the nomination of a new commission, we are delighted to be welcoming Mr Katainen, Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness at the European Commission; Dominique Ristori, Director-General at DG Energy; Francisco Fonseca Morillo, Deputy Director-General, DG JUST and a few leading MEPs such as Birgit Sippel or Axel Voss. To find out more, please check our programme.

If you would like to know more about our EU Committee activities or be more involved, please email Nikolaus, EU Committee chair at ntacke@heringschuppener.com or Charline, EU Events and Policy Executive at charline@britishchamber.eu

 

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The British Chamber of Commerce works with a broad range of Accredited Service Providers to bring you the best professional advice for international businesses who are in or entering the Belgian market. This series aims to give you a bit of an insight into these companies; showcasing how they can help you develop your business. British Chamber members can book a free first consultation with any of our expert advisors.

We’ve been speaking to BNP Paribas Fortis on what they think the biggest issues are for business when joining the Belgian market.

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Which 3 questions should companies looking to do business in Belgium ask themselves?

You cannot enter a market without thoroughly analysing it first and having a clear idea of its main players and competitors. Which leads us quite nicely to the first question: What does my target market look like, and what are my market timing, KPIs and objectives going to be? Once you have answered this rather basic but essential question, you will need to determine how you are going to enter the market. Will you set out on your own, or do you appeal to a specialized partner to help you access the market more efficiently and reduce your time-to-market? Finally, you need to determine where in Belgium you will set up your business. Many factors will influence this decision, such as the exact nature of your activities, what federal or regional incentives may apply to your company, the need for logistical and transport hubs, the need to find qualified personnel, etc. And once again, it is important to decide in advance if you will make this choice alone or in concert with a partner familiar with local regulation, culture, business habits and recruitment.

What is one emerging trend in the business/regulatory environment which you would advise companies in or entering Belgium to be particularly proactive about?

Efforts continue apace to encourage entrepreneurship and attract foreign investors or companies. This is done in various ways, for instance by reducing or streamlining regulation, installing specific and advantageous tax systems, providing well-situated infrastructure and office space, investing in high-quality and internationally-oriented education, etc. All of these measures are intended to make it easier for your company to enter the Belgian market, but it will take some time and research to familiarize yourself with them.

Additionally, a great many aids and grants are available from federal and local authorities. We advise you to contact one of the dedicated investment agencies, such as the Brussels Enterprise Agency (BEA), Flanders Investment & Trade or the Office for Foreign Investors (OFI) in Wallonia , who will be more than happy to tell you which aids or incentives apply to your company.

Why is it important for new entrants in Belgium to speak with you

Most importantly, for a seamless continuation of service.  Thanks to BNP Paribas Fortis being part of a global group, both your mother company and your Belgian activities can work with a single bank and enjoy the same service offer. Put more concretely, your relationship manager in Belgium will be in contact with the British BNP Paribas team, allowing for a better understanding of your specific needs, central reporting and an effective service level.

Through us, you also have access to an extensive offering of digital banking services and innovative solutions covering all your banking and financing needs, including international cash management, global trade solutions, factoring, fleet management, expat services, etc. Wherever you decide to establish your subsidiary in Belgium, you will receive a dedicated relationship manager from a central corporate bankers team in Brussels or from one of 16 local business centres.

Last but not least, we are quite experienced in servicing Belgian subsidiaries of foreign groups, which explains why over 3,300 foreign groups have chosen us as their bank in Belgium.

If you’d like to organise a meeting with any of our Accredited Service Providers, or are interested in becoming one, get in touch with James Pearson – our Business & Trade Executive at james.pearson@britishchamber.be

The British Chamber of Commerce works with a broad range of Accredited Service Providers to bring you the best professional advice for international businesses who are in or entering the Belgian market. This series aims to give you a bit of an insight into these companies; showcasing how they can help you develop your business. British Chamber members can book a free first consultation with any of our expert advisors.

This week, our team spoke to Karelle Lambert – Senior Area Director for Europe at AWEX; the Wallonia Export & Investment Agency.

What are the top-4 questions companies looking to do business in Belgium should be asking?

 1. Why Belgium?

Belgium offers a market of 10 million consumers but our country should be considered as a launching platform for your export activities in Continental Europe.  Indeed, within 4 hour truck drive, you may reach 60 million consumers with a high purchasing power.

Belgium is a perfect assessment market. Belgium is often used a test market by large companies, such as Coca Cola or H&M, to test new products.   Considered as neutral, Belgium is the perfect location to reach European key markets.

2. What is the corporate tax level?

Nominative corporate tax level in Belgium is 33,99%.  However, due to numerous tax incentive measures, the average effective corporate tax level is  26,3%.

3. What is the availability and cost of real estate and labour force?

Belgium benefits from a cost-effective office and industrial areas market.  Belgium offers among the lowest prices in real estate in Europe.  The same trend applies for industrial building as well as for equipped greenfield lands in economic parks.  Availability of office, existing facilities and large greenfield plots is high in Belgium.

Prime education and the use of languages makes Belgium the perfect place to develop your international activities. Belgian universities and management schools, among the top worldwide ranking, offer high quality graduates on the market.

The Belgian Government has taken several measures in order to stimulate business environment:

The Tax Shift Law provides for a decrease of the employer social security contributions from 33% to 25%. Eurostat statistics already show that Belgium has a substantially lower rise of salary costs than the other countries.

As of the 1st of January 2016, the current reduction in social contributions related to first hirings were increased in two ways:

  • full exemption from employers’ contributions for the first hiring, unlimited in duration;
  • reduction in contributions for the six first hirings.

What is one emerging trend in the business/regulatory environment which you would advise companies in/entering Belgium to be particularly proactive about?

The business environment in Wallonia is enhanced through the new Marshall Plan 4.0 aiming at:

  • Considering Human capital as an asset and strengthening links between training and education,
  • Supporting the industry development, in a technological proactive perspective, including ever more and better SME’s,
  • Considering our territory as an essential resource for our economic development,
  • Supporting energy efficiency,
  • Supporting the digital innovation, integrating this new dimension within social and industrial practices.

Wallonia decided to strengthen its industrial policy and economic development through a clustering approach.  The Competitiveness clusters confirm the willingness to turn Wallonia into a competitive industrial area on a world-wide scale.  The clusters cover areas such as Transport & Logistics, Aeronautics & Aerospace, Sustainable & Eco construction, Green technologies, Energy & Sustainable development, Health & Biotech, Agro-food industry, ICT, Mechanical Engineering, Plastics processing, Digital industry.

Why is it important for new entrants in Belgium to speak with you?

Wallonia Export & Investment is the governmental organization taking care of Foreign Investors and we assure you of our total commitment to help you in your enquiries and steps to set up or develop in Belgium – Wallonia.  We may help you on different aspects including the search of real estate, information on the cash grants available in the Region, availability and costs of personnel, etc.  In short, investment and R&D grants, attractive fiscal measures, employment incentives are all available.  At any time, we may organize visits locally and have you meet key partners for your project. All our services are free of charge and treated confidentially.

If you’d like to organise a meeting with any of our Accredited Service Providers, or are interested in becoming one, get in touch with James Pearson – our Business & Trade Executive at james.pearson@britishchamber.be

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