Flemish PM talks of the historical and cultural links between Flanders and the UK

Speaking at the opening of an exhibition of work by the Flemish artist Léon Spillaert, the Flemish Prime Minister Jan Jambon (nationalist) said in the aftermath of Brexit and the tension between the UK and the European Union it is important to celebrate the cultural and historical links between Flanders and the UK.  Mr Jambon was speaking at the opening of the Léon Spillaert exhibition at the Royal Academy in London on Wednesday. 

Léon Spilliaert developed a typically introvert style that was full of melancholy. Mr Jambon told those at the opening that despite this Spillaert’s work was also full of light and expressed the spirit of freedom.  The Flemish PM spoke about the important influence that  Ostend (West Flanders), the city in which Léon Spillaert was born, had played in the artist’s work.  

"Everyone that has ever walked along the coast at Ostend will know how special the light is there”, Mr Jambon said.

Spilliaert was also infatuated with the nocturnal shadows of the mysterious black North Sea.

"He made them eternal by using Indian ink in his paintings, which created a subtle juxtaposition between light and darkness”.

Mr Jambon went on to highlight the historical links between Flanders and the UK. Both are located next to the North Sea and have traded with each other for centuries. In the 16th century a number of Flemish dialects were spoken by migrants to the UK. Thomas More wrote his book ‘Utopia’ in Flanders and the Flemish artists Antony Van Dyck and Pieter Paul Rubens were knighted by the king of England Charles I.  

"Today the UK is our 4th biggest export market. We are among the UK’s top 10 trading partners. The ports of Antwerp, Ghent and especially Zeebrugge and Ostend are oriented towards the British market. Each year we welcome more than 900,000 British tourists. They come to commemorate the Great War, but also to do business, enjoy Flemish gastronomy and visit our cultural and historic heritage sites”.    

The Flemish Prime Minister concluded by saying that he would do all he could to maintain these links and would call for "a good trade agreement to be made between the EU and the UK."



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