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More than 40 new businesses in Flanders due to Brexit

19:51 29/09/2019

More than 40 international businesses have established offices in Flanders specifically due to Brexit, according to figures quoted in the Flemish parliament. While 42 businesses have already set up shop, 136 additional firms have taken steps or are in conversations to make Flanders their European hub.

Acting foreign affairs minister Ben Weyts made the annoucement this week in answer to a parliamentary question. The figures come from Flanders Investment & Trade (Fit), directly responsible for assisting foreign investors.

According to Fit, of the 136 additional companies making plans to invest in Flanders, 60% are British. Companies from the UK are setting up offices in EU countries in order to prevent disruptions to their exports and services in the EU following the Brexit deadline.

The other 40% are countries outside the EU – the US and Japan are two examples – that were planning foreign investment in the UK but have had to change their plans due to Brexit. “For one-fifth of these companies, we have already organised site visits in Flanders,” says Fit CEO Claire Tillekaerts. “As with the number of interested companies, the number of site visits has increased over the last few weeks.”

As the idea of a hard Brexit – the UK leaving the EU without a deal – is looking more and more likely, companies are finding it more urgent to establish foreign entities in secure EU countries. “While we certainly regret the UK’s departure from the European Union, Flanders offers a number of clear advantages to companies that are seeking to mitigate the negative impact of a no-deal Brexit,” says Tillekaerts. “Our region’s seaports and dense logistics network are located in the middle of Europe’s major commercial and industrial centres, connecting companies to 60% of the EU’s purchasing power in a matter of hours.”

The 42 companies that have already began trading from Flanders have been good for 2,000 jobs and €2.2 billion in inward investment. Sectors include chemicals, logistics, marketing and research.

The additional 136 companies currently interested in making Flanders their European base could go a long way to making up for the dire economic consequences of a hard Brexit on Flanders estimated in a study by KU Leuven earlier this year.

Flanders’ figures don’t even include activity seen in Brussels since the Brexit referendum. Finanical firms Lloyds, QBE Europe and MoneyGram International – to name a few – have already established centres in the capital.

“Brussels – the capital of both Flanders and Belgium – is Europe’s lobbying capital,” notes Tillekaerts. “Add to that Flanders’ R&D-friendly tax system and available benefits for expatriates, and it quickly becomes clear why our region is on the radar for companies seeking a secure gateway to the European market and an innovation ecosystem.”

Following the referendum in 2016, both the Flemish and federal governments organised campaigns to inform overseas investors of the advantages of setting up entities in Belgium. Fit has developed support packages and a welcome team to help companies take the first steps and make the entry into the region as smooth as possible.

Photo: IndustryView/GETTY. This article first appeared in Flanders Today

Written by Flanders Today