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Last week’s European Council Summit sparked a lot of media attention for the chamber. We’ve put the pick together here so you can catch any of the TV, radio and newspaper interviews from the week.

On Thursday, on the bill with former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, CEO Glenn Vaughan was interviewed live on euronews

 

Vice-President Tom Parker also spoke to RTBF on Sunday morning, you can listen here:

 

 

Tom also appeared on Sunday night’s televised news, you can watch that here (from 23 mins)

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President Thomas Spiller was also quoted in The Bulletin, warning of the negative impact drawn out negotiations can have on business

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Tom Parker speaks to Share Radio on the EU reforms and June’s Referendum from the Brussels perspective!

Glenn Vaughan was also interviewed on Estonian National Television, EER.

EU Committee chair James Stevens was also quoted in a recent article in Politico

Since the terror threat in Brussels, leading to the subsequent lock-down which then inspired Mr Trump to dub the city a ‘hellhole’, not to mention last week’s EU reform negotiations and the tabloid media storm that ensued: It’s fair to say that Belgium and Brussels has had it’s fair share of attention this winter, and it’s been all but rosy. We’ll be setting all that straight this week though as Glenn, our CEO, tells us it’s really not all that bad.

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Belgium is a valuable market and an attractive place to invest, and do business. With only 11 million people it’s roughly equal with China as a market for British exports and an ideal launch pad to the rest of the EU.

The security emergency at the end of 2015 gave us all a reminder that there are real threats to the prosperity and security that most Europeans take as normal. Even Belgium is not immune. That’s why I have been keen to work with our friends at AmCham Belgium and the Belgium Japan Association to make sure that business in our own countries, and worldwide, are well informed about the situation here. Tomorrow, we’ll published an open letter, with the support of 13 other national chambers of commerce in Belgium, highlighting the continued attractiveness of Belgium.

The importance of business between Belgium and Britain is no flash in the pan. The British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium was founded here in 1898 and bilateral business continues to grow. To see that, you only have to look at the successful British and Belgian companies (large and small) recognised in our Golden Bridge Export Awards in recent times.

British investment, and that of the wider international business community, makes a big contribution to jobs and prosperity. With their many nationalities, the British Chamber’s member companies are a great representation of that international business community, directly employing more than 120,000 people here.

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While we all want and expect emerging economies to become more important trading partners in the future, Europe will continue to be hugely important to Britain for a very long time. To illustrate the point, Belgium recently jumped back above China (if only temporarily) as Britain’s 6th largest export market.

Since just Belgium on its own is so important to the UK, it’s no surprise that a clear majority of our members worry that leaving the EU would be bad for the British economy. Our job here in Brussels is to provide a platform that ensures our members understand the debate and its implications, and can plan how they will respond.

We’re planning an active programme of events over the period up to the referendum and plenty of opportunities for members to share their views with, and learn from, their peers.

Keep an eye out this week for a full press release!

James Stevens

Over the next few weeks we’ll be hearing from some of our organising committee chairs on what they’re planning for our members in 2016. This week, EU Committee Chair James Stevens tells us what to expect over the next 12 months

A quick scan of the newspapers at this time of year provides you with a veritable smorgasbord of predictions for the year ahead. And the great thing about divining the future is that whether you’re informed, misinformed or uninformed, your predictions are as valid as the next man’s. It’s also pretty unlikely that you will get called upon them in twelve months’ time. Even if Danish physicist Niels Bohr is right and “prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”, when all said and done it probably does not matter too much.

So, while the likes of Wolfgang Munchau rift on the existential crisis faced by the European Union or a former Swedish foreign minister reflects on everything affecting the global economy, I have one confident and bold prediction that I am happy for you to hold me to at the end of the year. The British Chamber in Brussels will be the place for international business in Brussels to gain insights, build relationships and engage in the debates that matter in 2016.

Why is my crystal ball so clear? Five reasons; four are external to the Chamber, one internal. Here they are:

  1. Legislation is back

Providing insights and a platform for debate on legislation is what the British Chamber does best. And in many key areas, it’s time to get legislative. Vice President Šefčovič’s State of the Energy Union highlighted 2016 as the year of legislative action. Much of the Digital Single Market legislation is already proposed and will create some huge bun-fights. 54 new legislative and non-legislative measures relating to the Circular Economy were outlined just in time for Christmas. Not to mention the Single Market Strategy and of course continued action in areas like trade and competition. In 2016, we’ll have a full programme of events to help our members understand these developments.

  1. External challenges will continue to provoke new debates

We may be British in origin, but we are international in outlook. Most obviously 2016 will bring change in the US, as a successor to Barack Obama is elected. That much is a known. Unknown is what will be the latest iteration of the waves of crises lapping on the EU’s shores. No doubt sovereign debt, migration and security will remain subjects of debate. Whatever our next misfortune, the Chamber will be providing a platform for views and voices from both inside the Brussels Bubble and outside it to ensure our members get a fully rounded view on what it all means for them.

  1. UK referendum will make the British Chamber in Brussels more relevant than ever

The members of the British Chamber in Brussels are clear. We believe that the UK is better off in the EU, and the EU is better off with it in. In the run up to the UK’s referendum we’ll be providing a platform for the views of all actors on what kind of EU business and EU citizens need in the future. And irrespective of the result of the referendum, the British Chamber will remain a place where companies and individuals from all of Europe can contribute to a debate on the issues that matter to them in Brussels.

  1. Europe will need to come up with solutions

The strength of the British Chamber in Brussels is that its 240+ members are diverse both in terms of sectors and geographical footprint. Our members range from the likes of BASF, Facebook and Hitachi, to BT, Barclays and Rolls Royce. With the complexity and severity of the challenges facing Europe, only an approach which brings together the views and experiences of such a diverse range of actors is likely to bear fruit.

  1. The Chamber is in good health

With our new President, Thomas Spiller of the Walt Disney Company, starting his first full year, we’re in a great position to provide the increasing value that members so keenly want from the Chamber. Members have noticed over recent years an increased professionalization of the Chamber, led by our Chief Executive Glenn Vaughan, both in terms of staff and facilities. As a result, we’ve attracted new members in 2015 including BMW, KBC , Deloitte and Sodexo. In 2016 existing members can expect more value from a packed programme. New members can expect a warm welcome.

Of course, in the words of Abraham Lincoln “the best way to predict your future is to create it”. I would invite all members of the British Chamber to join me in 2016 to ensure that my prediction comes true. After all, as I repeat on a regular basis at events, it’s your Chamber not mine.

James Stevens

Chair of the EU Committee

Next week, you’ll be hearing from Amelie Coulet, Chair of our young professionals network, Brussels New Generation.

Dave Sinardet

Dave Sinardet is a Professor of Political Science at the Free University of Brussels (VUB), specialised in federalism, nationalism and multi level governance. He is also a columnist for De Tijd and La Libre Belgique. This week he writes his analysis on the issue of Brexit in light of the UK’s looming referendum.

The importance of the upcoming UK referendum on EU membership cannot be overestimated. For both Britain and the EU, much will be at stake on the day, somewhere before the end of 2017, when British citizens will have to answer the question ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union, or leave the European Union?’

The UK may not have been one of the founding members of the EU, nor one of the most passionate, and it may not be part of the Euro, it has been part of the club since 1973. The fact that such a long-time member state would vote to leave the EU can become a political precedent that can reinforce the political strength of Eurosceptics in many other European countries. Moreover, Britain remains an important player in foreign policy. Even though some European federalists hope that without the UK it would be easier to further integrate the EU – most notably on the social level, it looks more likely that a Brexit could inflict serious damage on the European project.

However, the impact of a Brexit might very well be stronger for the UK. Economically, but also politically. There is a lot at stake for current Prime Minister David Cameron. He may have gotten a comfortable majority at the recent general election, one of his promises could mean the end of his leadership. Indeed, if in the referendum campaign he defends the staying in option – which is extremely likely – while the out would win, the result would probably force him to resign.

Also, leaving the EU could very well lead to the definitive break up of the United Kingdom itself. Given the fact that support for EU membership is (a bit) stronger in Scotland, it is clear that the Scottish National Party will use a Brexit to call for a new referendum on Scottish independence which could be won by Scottish separatists.

The Scottish referendum last year showed that referenda can create dynamics and produce results that are quite unexpected. The majority of Scots may have voted to stay in the UK, in the end the call was much closer than initially expected (and hoped by Cameron). The same goes for the many referendums on EU treaty change that were held in different European countries during the past decades. The French vote against the project of European constitution in 2005 is probably one of the most striking examples.

One of the disadvantages of referenda is that people may vote on other issues than the one actually at stake. And indeed, even though staying in or getting out of the EU will not have a fundamental impact on the migration issue, the fact that some recent polls suggest that a majority could vote for leaving the EU is probably linked to public concerns over the current refugee crisis.

If the broader migration debate continues to dominate, the changes that David Cameron could get out of a renegotiaton of the terms of Britain’s EU membership will not play a very important role in the referendum debate. In any case the actual changes will probably not strongly influence the result. Given that most British newspapers favour a Brexit it is now already clear that these changes will largely be framed as marginal. The fact that Cameron intially declared he wanted treaty change will not help him to develop a credible counterframe.

Another indicator that makes a Brexit vote a conceivable scenario is that the case for national sovereignty seems to be quite successful these days, as was shown by the Scottish referendum, but also by Catalonia’s recent election and by the rise of state nationalism and Euroscepticism in many European countries. This success is certainly in part fuelled by a frustration among many voters who feel they have lost grip on political decision-making. While this frustration is understandable and to a large extent correct, the question is whether a return to the nation state is the solution to the problem. In today’s globalised world, national sovereignty is more than ever an illusion. Not only that, while returning to national sovereignty may not give you more actual power, it can even make you lose some. If after a Brexit, the UK would still want full access to the European single market, it would still have to comply with most of the EU rules. However, it will have lost the power it has today to contribute determining them.

29-04-2015 : Glenn Vaughan van de British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium

The UK’s referendum on EU membership represents a major landmark in the history of European integration. The British Chamber in Brussels sits in the political heart of Europe and have direct access to the EU insights that are critical for business. The referendum then is of huge importance to us, as it is to Britain and Europe. This week our Chief Executive officer, Glenn Vaughan, writes to outline what the chamber will be doing leading up to the all important vote.

Membership of the EU is vital both for the UK and the future of the EU and the UK Referendum is an opportunity to give momentum to EU reform. That’s why a clear majority of BCCB members believe the UK should REMAIN in the EU. So what is the British Chamber doing?

We will be playing to our strengths to ensure that our members have access to the best possible information on the referendum and ensure our Brussels partners and stakeholders understand the importance of reform and renewal for Europe.

We want to ensure that our EU partners understand the importance of the UK’s reform agenda and that this is good for Europe, not just the United Kingdom. The referendum provides an opportunity to inject momentum into the ongoing European reform process.The 3 things that our members say are most important are:

  1. Extending and Developing the Single Market
  2. The development of the global trade agenda
  3. Improve the EU’s industrial competitiveness

We have already been actively building on this agenda, most recently in our debate with Herman Van Rompuy recently and we have much more already planned including “Evolving Europe: the Brussels debate” in conjunction with COBCOE (British chambers of commerce from across Europe) in the European Parliament on 17 November.

I’m also delighted that we’ll welcome the US Ambassador to the European Union, Anthony Gardner, at the end of the month and we will have ambassadors from more countries visiting from around the world before the year end. In addition, our 2016 calendar is well on the way with the schedule almost full for the first half of next year.

If you have concerns or questions regarding the referendum; our Future of Europe briefings should be your first port of call. Keep an eye on our calendar and make sure you register early to guarantee your place.

I look forward to seeing you there.

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The issue of Brexit is an ever-present in today’s media; particularly in recent weeks as Nigel Farage begins his attempt to unify the ‘out’ campaign. This week Tom Parker, Managing Director of Cambre Associates and British Chamber Vice President writes about the Chamber’s stance on the UK referendum debate.

With the UK Referendum fast approaching, the debate about the UK and its EU future is heating up. Opinion from both sides of the business community has been put forward. Empowered by an opinion survey of its members, the British Chamber will be arguing strongly the reasons why the UK should vote to remain in.

Our members believe that being a member of the EU brings major benefits to the UK, including, though not limited to foreign direct investment: trade, greater security (energy, climate, defence) and support for our research and regions.

Members of the chamber also believe that a decision by the UK to leave would hurt their businesses. The majority of members surveyed said that if the UK were to leave the EU this would be bad for their business (58%) and for the British economy

Looking beyond the implications for the UK, we also very firmly believe that the UK’s EU membership is vital for the future of the union itself. The UK has played an important role in helping shape a more competitive Europe and as the EU seeks to drive European growth and competitiveness, we believe the UK must remain in the EU and at the heart of this process.

Europe’s patchy economic performance in recent years and events like the migration crisis and potential Grexit have exposed a systemic EU weakness in a rapidly evolving, globalised world.

We believe the UK referendum offers a major opportunity to drive a new momentum to reform the European Union, enabling it to better serve its people and work equally for all its members, both inside and outside of the Eurozone.

In short, the UK referendum fits within a wider EU process of renewal. To this end, our members believe the EU is making good progress on priority issues that matter to business. In our survey of members:

  • 81% said the EU was making progress in completing the Single Market;
  • 78% said the EU was making progress in promoting External Trade;

However, we believe more can still be done and building on the reforms to date, the referendum offers an opportunity to help renew the EU, to make it more competitive, dynamic and to make it a Europe of opportunity for all its citizens.

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By James Dowling, Director at FleishmanHillard

The British Chamber and FleishmanHillard London are putting together the programme for the chamber’s first ever London Visit this November. James Dowling, Director at FleishmanHillard London, gives us a peek into some of the current hot topics in the UK that will be covered during the visit.

The UK is where it’s at. A strong, stable economy outperforming the U.S. and the Eurozone, and a majority Conservative Government freed from the shackles of coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

But is all as it seems? The Government is investing in the regional economies with its new Northern Powerhouse, but the economic miracle comes from the only real UK powerhouse, London. There, much of the wealth comes from the financial services sectors and real estate, but also an emerging Tech City in the East End that is rivalling Silicon Valley for innovation and business. And although some deep political issues have been settled for the moment – notably Scotland’s position within the Kingdom and the matter of who governs the UK for the next half decade, further longer-standing ones remain.

Most important is the question of Brexit. Although the UK Independence Party failed to win new seats at the General Election, the latest polling shows that a majority of Britons would vote to leave the EU now if they could do so. With the referendum planned in 2017, there remains an uphill struggle for the UK’s influencers to persuade British voters of the need to remain in the EU – or to give them a credible alternative scenario. Either way, there would be a clear immediate political and economic impact on the UK and the remaining EU and Eurozone, too.

We are excited to be supporting the British Chamber in putting together a two-day programme of high-level speakers and discussions, which will give chamber members a unique opportunity to learn more about these and other topics setting the business and political agenda in London and the UK. We’re particularly excited to announce that the former EU Trade Commissioner and UK Cabinet Member Lord Mandelson has agreed to speak to us. This high profile guest reflects the standing of the chamber and its membership, and it highlights the importance of the debate on UK/EU relations, whatever the outcome of the referendum. I hope that you are as excited about the visit as we are here in London, and I look forward to seeing you in November.

FleishmanHillard London is the official Knowledge Partner for the chamber’s upcoming London Visit. Registrations are now open for the visit, which will take place over the 9th and 10th November. The programme will include lunch at the House of Commons and high-level sessions on themes such as Living Longer, Living Better; High Value Manufacturing (especially relating to the Northern, metropolitan cities); Future Cities; Connected Digital Economy, looking in particular at the buzz surrounding Tech City; and of course UK/EU relations and the upcoming referendum, as viewed from the London side.

Click here to register for the visit

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