Bourgeois "This weakens the UK, the EU and Flanders”

The Flemish Prime Minister Geert Bourgeois (nationalist) has reacted to the result of the UK Brexit referendum. Speaking on Friday morning, Mr Bourgeois said “Of course I think that the result of the referendum to leave the EU is regrettable. This weakens the UK, the EU and Flanders.

"The United Kingdom provides a great deal of added value to Europe both politically and economically. We do however respect the choice of the Britons. We now need to be pragmatic to ensure that the Brexit goes as smoothly as possible”.

Last week Mr Bourgeois asked the Flemish Government’s Study Bureau to calculate how much a Brexit would cost our region between now and 2030. A so-called “hard Brexit” in which no free trade agreement was signed would cost Flanders 2.5% of its GDP. A “soft Brexit” with low customs tariffs would see our region’s GDP fall by 1.8%.

“Strong and close cultural ties”

"Flanders has long had close political and cultural ties with the British”.

"For centauries these have led to the creation of security and wealth for both of us. We were each other’s ally in good times and bad. The Britons that died in the two world wars are the most recent proof of this. The United Kingdom is a very important trading partner for Flanders. It is our fourth biggest export market. This is especially true in areas in which Flanders excels such as the food and textile industries. It is essential that trade across the Channel continues to flourish. This is why we should strive for a soft Brexit."

Mr Bourgeois believes that negotiations on a far-reaching free-trade accord with the British should run parallel to the negotiations on the Brexit. Mr Bourgeois will argue his case during the preparations for next week’s European summit.