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What Brexit Means for Belgium

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What Brexit Means for Belgium

At the end of January 2021 the UK left the EU. UK’s exit has important outcomes for Belgium because of the close trading partnership between the 2 nations. Here is a look at some of the impacts.

Trade

The UK has been Belgium’s fourth largest trading partner. The bilateral trade represented 8% of Belgium’s exports and 5% of its imports. Pharmaceutical products account for 11.8% of Belgium’s exports to the UK. Large Belgian pharmaceutical firms such as EG Generics and Pfizer will feel the impact of Brexit soon. Additionally, 30% of Belgium’s exports of woven fabrics, tufted textiles, and lace go to the UK.

Customs

Before Brexit there were no border restrictions or customs checks on the movement of goods between Belgium and the UK. That will change. The EU customs laws as well as national and European export and import regulations will now apply. The UK will introduce border controls in phases for all freight traffic arriving from the EU. Basic customs requirements came into effect on January 1, 2021. Companies will have till July 1, 2021 to submit customs declarations and make payments (excluding transit traffic). Physical checks of goods will take place sporadically at the place of destination.

From July 2021, full customs declarations will be required at the border. Traders will pay relevant tariffs at the point of import. Delaying declarations will not be possible. Entry safety and security declarations will become mandatory. Goods subject to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures will have to be declared at the border. These may be subject to checks at the border or inland sites.

New formalities and documentation will also be required for goods flowing from the UK to Belgium. These include export summary declarations, customs declarations, and safety and security declarations. Pre-import notifications, health certificates, and documentary checks will now become necessary.

Impact

The change from an open to restricted border is bound to cause some delays in the shipment of goods. According to Deloitte the impact of Brexit will be felt by export and import businesses. The Guardian reported that Eurotunnel traffic was exceptionally low right after Brexit. Drivers and exporters are still avoiding the ports and Channel train services. This is partly because of pre-Brexit stockpiling. Businesses are often quieter during the first 2 weeks of the new year. Before Brexit transporters could roll off the Eurotunnel and carry on up the A16 to Belgium, unloading wares a few hours later at destinations such as Utrecht.  Now they have to wait for a long time to get cleared.

Migration

Nearly 25,000 UK citizens live in Belgium, and some 30,000 Belgians live in the UK. In addition both countries are home to millions of migrant workers from other nations. Expat professionals support their families back home with remittances sent via the Ria Money Transfer App and other channels. Before Brexit citizens of both countries could travel and work freely across each others’ borders. A passport or identity card was all the documentation that was needed. There will be important changes to this framework.

Till September 30, 2021 a Belgian identity card will be enough to travel to the UK and stay for less than 6 months. From October 1, 2021 a valid passport will become mandatory even for short stays. The British Home Office will issue immigration permits (long stay visas) according to a points-based assessment. In other words Belgians will get the same treatment in the UK as third country (non EU) citizens. Entry into the UK will be subject to having the correct visa before your departure from Belgium. Reciprocal regulations will apply to UK citizens visiting Belgium.

About the Author:

Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.

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