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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.

 

 

On Thursday 25th October, the British Chamber’s CEO Glenn Vaughan met with Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab for a landmark meeting alongside representatives from chambers across Europe. Glenn shares his thoughts following the meeting:

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There’s no certainty – but more clarity and confidence can be built

Last Thursday I was part of a delegation of national chambers of commerce that met Secretary of State, Dominic Raab, Brexit Minister Robin Walker and the top officials from his department. Countries represented were Germany, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark – as well as Britain.

The message from our own members was supported by detail from our expert Future Relations Committee, and echoed loudly by national chambers representing 70% of all EU-UK trade:

  • No-deal is not an option – for either side. It would create very severe disruption for everyone.
  • When a withdrawal agreement is finalised, the next phase of negotiations must proceed quickly. There’s no room for a leisurely go-slow while the EU manages its institutional changeover or London lines up its ducks.
  • Regulatory alignment is extremely important if we are to get close to ‘frictionless trade’ in a future agreement.

The need for certainty underlies everything we have to say, but right now it is a long way off. Each new piece of progress only reveals the next cause of uncertainty. An agreement at a hoped for November European summit will need to be approved, especially in the UK parliament.  Once a withdrawal agreement is sealed, that’s the point from which we can start to work towards clarity – step by step.

We expect both the UK and the EU to take that opportunity to specify a clear destination and make clear and practical steps towards it, building confidence as they go. Another period of putting off decisions, until the next cliff edge is reached, is no good for anyone.

As we head towards a ‘Brussels summer’ and our team are putting together the autumn events agenda, we’re looking forward to seeing all of you after the break. I just want to take a brief moment to say thank you to the team who have helped us put together the programme so far and will be leaving over the summer to either newer pastures or back to their studies. Robbert Dekker, Operations & Strategy Executive left at the end of June to be an independent CRM Consultant, James Pearson, Business & Trade Executive leaves us in mid-August as he moves to Montreal and we want to say thank you to them for all the hard work they have put into the chamber over the last few years and wish them lots of luck with their new challenges ahead!

Our work is supported by some truly wonderful interns who will all be finishing their terms with us over the summer.  Thanks to Dersim Rosa Karadag, Tom Pickup and Danny Owen who have continued developing the programme for the EU Committee and developing the communications/putting together our Members Directory/Annual Report. We wish them luck in their final year at university. Thanks to Clément Staner and Claudia Gherman on the Business Development side supporting James and developing the programme further over the last few months and also thanks to Trang Nguyen for making our financial systems make sense to rest of the team and keeping us in check!

We’ll have plenty of new faces joining us over the summer and we look forward to you all meeting them at the chamber offices in September.

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Have a great Summer!

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Two of our organising committees are currently in search of new chairs this summer. We’re looking for two professionals to lead our Business Development Group and our young professional’s network, Brussels New Generation. We took some time over Easter to talk to President of the British Chamber, Thomas Spiller about the importance of sitting in a leadership role outside of your organisation.

This summer is going to bring with it two very exciting opportunities for two professionals in our network here at the chamber. With that in mind, I wanted to emphasise the importance of sitting in a leadership role outside of your organisation; it can be a real boost for your personal development whilst bringing real benefits to your employers.

First of all, you’re instantly going to raise your own personal profile: it’ll be your name at the top of the list. And if your name is there, you’re also creating visibility for your company. For example, if you’re chairing a committee at the chamber, you’ll get visibility for yourself and your organisation through our various media. You’re also going to be at the speakers table for the events that you’re committee have organised which brings me to my next point: your ability to expand your network through a trusted platform.

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The British Chamber attracts the key, high level stakeholders and decision-makers in both politics and business all year round. As chair of either BDG or BNG, you’ll be hosting these individuals at our events. This is also where you’re employers can really benefit too as you’ll be in prime position to ask the questions and gain real insights that you can take away and better prepare your organisation for whatever challenges the future will bring.

Where and who these insights come from? You can lead on that. You’ll be in the driving seat to shape the agenda and put together the programme with your committee. The new BNG chair will already be inheriting an exciting programme in 2016 as we look ahead to the Strasbourg Visit. You’ll be chairing panels including MEP’s, political advisers and senior press officers. If you’re elected chair of the Business Development Group, you’ll be chairing a fast growing committee! BDG hosted 40 events in 2015 compared to 12 the year before and have the next London Visit to look forward to which last year featured Ken Clarke MP and Lord Mandelson as speakers. The committee will also be overseeing our ‘Ambassador Hosts’ series with the great support of British Ambassador to Belgium, HE Alison Rose.

Olivier & Mandy

Don’t forget that these sorts of opportunities allow you to demonstrate your leadership potential outside of your day to day role. Show your employers that you aspire to leadership and are actively trying to push yourself and find that experience yourself. Make sure you grab your opportunity and apply for a leadership role at the chamber role today!

You can read a bit about what the current chairs had to say about how they’ve benefited from their roles below:

Chairing the Business Development Group has not only offered me a unique opportunity to contribute to the continued growth of the British Chamber; the role has also provided me with extended visibility for my business as well as on an individual level. The role offers great exposure in relation to fellow chamber members and other key stakeholders in the British, Belgian and European business communities. It’s been an honour and pleasure to chair chamber activities with such interesting and diverse speakers as Lord Mandelson, Jerry Hardcastle OBE, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, and many other senior business leaders, political figures, entrepreneurs, and opinion leaders.

– Olivier Van Horenbeeck, Chair of the Business Development Group 2014-2016

Chairing the BNG has been incredibly helpful for me both from a personal and professional perspective. It has enabled me to significantly expand my network of contacts and brought me great visibility as an individual consultant but also for my company, particularly vis-à-vis senior people in Brussels. It is also the best possible training in public speaking, which for a young professional is a very useful skill to develop. Finally, I really enjoyed working alongside a great team both within the British chamber and the BNG group. It is a great role and a significant part of the Chamber’s activities towards younger audiences in Brussels.

– Amélie Coulet, Chair of Brussels New Generation 2016-2016

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)

 

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

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.

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