Geert Bourgeois was citing a report compiled by researchers working for the Flemish government. "After Ireland, Flanders would be hardest hit. This is not a positive perspective", Bourgeois told the Flemish Parliament yesterday afternoon.
Flanders is exporting more to the UK than it is importing: tapestry, food products, chemicals and pharmaceutical products, to mention just a few. In 2015, Flemish exports to the UK totalled 27.4 billion euros, which makes the UK the 4th biggest export market for Flanders, after Germany, France and the Netherlands. Flemish imports from the UK were only worth some 15.1 billion.
According to calculations, a "hard Brexit" (when no new trade agreements would be negotiated) would reduce the Flemish GDP to the tune of 2.5 percent by 2030. A so-called "soft Brexit" (e.g. with reduced custom rates) would impact less, some 1.8 percent.
"Flanders is strong enough to bear the consequences"
Whatever a majority of the British people decide, "Flanders is ready to bear the consequences", Bourgeois told the VRT evening news show "Terzake".
"There are talks of 10,000 to 12,000 jobs that could be lost", Bourgeois said. "But let's not panic, and wait for the outcome of the referendum first. Even in the case of a Brexit, we should not start panicking. Flanders is strong enough to cope. This being said, a Brexit would be the worst-case scenario. The EU would be weakened in any case."