De port of Zeebrugge could be one of the main victims when the Brexit will become a fact. Up to 45 percent of its trade directly concerns the U.K., which led to Zeebrugge CEO Joachim Coens sounding the alarm in De Tijd.
Coens is afraid that high import and export duties will push companies to do business with other countries. Zeebrugge handles 2.8 million cars per year as Europe's busiest car transport hub; 1 million of these vehicles go to or come the U.K.
Geert Bourgeois (Flemish nationalist/N-VA) shares Coens' concerns. "High duties for exports to the U.K. is the last thing we need. This is not only the case for Zeebrugge, but for the Flemish economy as a whole. Flanders thrives by its exports. The U.K. is our fourth biggest trading partner."
Bourgeois is pressing for the least possible border and customs formalities and the maintenance of common standards for products. He is bound to enjoy the support of Boris Johnson on the former, as Johnson knows that Britain would also suffer from a hard Brexit. Its car industry, for one thing, is largely dependent on European parts and imports.
Bourgeois will also meet captains of industry on Monday in sectors that fear a heavy impact, and will visit the West Flemish company Ardo, a specialist in frozen vegetables.