Former Flemish PM fears “Brexit disaster on top of corona disaster”

The former Flemish Prime Minister MEP Geert Bourgeois (Flemish nationalist) has told VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’ that he fears that failure to reach an agreement on the future relationship between the European Union and the UK will cost the Flemish economy dear. Mr Bourgeois said that he fears “A Brexit disaster on top a corona disaster” for our region’s economy. 

Despite the current corona crisis talks on the future relationship between the UK and the EU once the post-Brexit transitional period expires on 31 December this year are still ongoing. The talks resumed last Monday after both the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and the UK’s chief negotiator David Forst had to take time out to recover from COVID-19.

During the next eight months agreement will need to be reached on a wide range of issues, ranging from trade to tourism and the rules under which EU citizens will be allowed to work in the UK.

Mr Bourgeois told ‘De ochtend’ that “The talks aren’t progressing well. A no deal Brexit is still a possibility. The British want a series of piecemeal accords while the EU wants an agreement covering everything. The approach, the contents and the progress that is being made give me cause for concern”.

Extension of the transitional period until 2022?

The UK could ask that the transitional period is extended until 2022. However, the British Government has said that it doesn’t plan to do so. Furthermore, it has threatened to leave the negotiating table if a trade deal is not in sight by June.

"Our economy will contract by between 8 and 9% as a result of the corona crisis. Just image if a no deal Brexit comes on top of this. Then we would lose another 2.6%. It would be a disaster on top of a disaster”.

The corona crisis is not making things easier for the negotiators as the talks are currently taking place via video link.

"I fan agreement is not reached soon the (federal) Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès (Francophone liberal) will have to go and defend our interests. We are currently focussed on Corona, but a no deal Brexit still hasn’t been averted. I still hope that there will be an agreement, but we need to take into account a worst case scenario. Flanders will be hit very hard. This on top of corona will be difficult to digest”, Mr Bourgeois said.