According to the National Bank, a hard Brexit could cost Belgian companies that export to the UK 1.6 billion euros in additional customs duties and tariffs, while a study by Leuven university said 40,000 Belgian jobs could be at risk.
The emergency law will have to cover a range of matters, from new customs documentation for British goods to additional customs staff, as well as the effects on air and rail transport, port activity, food safety and the rights of Belgians living in the UK.
Meanwhile, according to finance minister Alexander De Croo, only one in five companies who trade with the UK is ready for the consequences of a no-deal. According to figures collected by the Belgian customs services, of the 25,000 companies who have trade relations with the UK, barely 5,000 said they were prepared should a hard Brexit come about – something last night’s vote brought closer.
“The government has to do its job and make sure Belgian customs are ready for Brexit,” De Croo said. “But it’s just as important that businesses prepare as well.”
Prime minister Charles Michel reacted to the British vote last night. A hard Brexit could still be avoided, he told Belga news agency. “The ball is more than ever in the court of the British,” he said. “The 27 [remaining EU states] have stressed that the agreement on the table is the only one possible. It is now up to the British to accept the consequences of their choice.”