The prospect of a deal between the UK and the EU is slowly ebbing away as the 1 January deadline comes into focus. On this date transitionary measures introduced after the UK left the EU earlier this year disappear, unless a new agreement is in place. A new agreement will need to be approved by EU institutions, so time is running short. However, last ditch talks resume today.
“These are crucial negotiations” says the Flemish PM. “In the event of No Deal, Flanders will be seriously impacted. Calculations suggest 28,000 jobs will be trashed across various sectors. It is a dreadful toll.”
The blow inflicted comes in addition to the misery caused by the pandemic. Mr Jambon is eying the EU in the hope it will support business hit by any Brexit fiasco.
“A European fund of 5 billion euros exists” he says.
As it’s unclear which sectors will be hardest hit the funds have not yet been earmarked for distribution.
Fortunately, Flanders too boasts a recovery fund to assist businesses to reorient their activities towards new, profitable markets.
“Corona has blasted our budget into the red. Luckily, we are not talking about a structural deficit, even though it will have a knock-on effect on the national debt. We will have to review the budget when the corona crisis is over to limit the deficit” says Mr Jambon.
The Flemish fishing industry is one of the sectors that could be badly hit by a No Deal Brexit despite ancient Flemish fishing rights in English waters. In the event of a No Deal the UK could try to ban our fleet from British waters.
Given the strong, centuries old ties Flemish trawlermen are hopeful that even without a UK-EU deal their sector will be able to reach agreement on access.
Emiel Brouckaert of the Flemish Shipowners’ Federation: “Fishing in UK waters is important for us. 50% of our activities are centred there. An awful lot of uncertainty remains and this is increasing as 1 January approaches. We are hoping for clarity soon. Fish are poor respecters of the borders of territorial waters.”