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42,000 jobs in Belgium could be lost to hard Brexit
According to an impact study released yesterday by KU Leuven, just over 1% of all jobs in Flanders will disappear if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal. Otherwise known as a “hard Brexit”, the scenario looks likely as the months to the 31 October deadline pass.
“Not surprisingly, the largest share of the Belgian job losses take place in Flanders,” reads the study. “Of the 42,000 Belgian job losses under hard Brexit, about 28,000 jobs will be lost in Flanders, which corresponds with about 1.06% of the Flemish working population.”
Wallonia comes second with 10,000 job losses, and the remaining 4,000 jobs will be lost in Brussels. Most of the redundancies will be made in the food and beverage sector, the report says, followed by administrative & support and textiles. A large number of sectors, however, will be affected, including retail, agriculture, transport equipment and pharma.
After Ireland, Belgium would be one of the worst-hit European countries in the case of hard Brexit. Other countries looking at a serious economic hit are the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.
A “soft Brexit” – if a deal on free movement of goods and people can be reached – the expected 42,000 job losses across Belgium would drop to some 10,000. It would still remain one of the worst effected in the EU.
Earlier this month, Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois responded to the European Commission’s statement that no more contingency measures were being taken for businesses in the case of a hard Brexit. “It is the duty of the EU to protect the jobs and the welfare of its citizens,” he said.
The extended Brexit deadline of October “will not bring relief to Flemish SMEs affected by high import duties and heavy administrative burdens, customs and phytosanitary controls and possibly other product standards,” said Bourgeois. “Your fourth largest export market, good for nearly €28 billion, you can’t just replace, even with extra time.”