Last week, the citizens of the United Kingdom voted by a slim margin to leave the European Union, although there was clear disparity in the voice of the UK’s various regions. While there is no precedence for what will happen next, everyone is in agreement that there will be high levels of uncertainty as to Britain’s future, particularly in relationship to the EU. While the UK will technically remain a member of the EU for at least two years following the instigation of Article 50 discussions – the equivalent of a divorce settlement – they will obviously have a significantly reduced voice during this period. What exactly does this mean for business?
This is the question which must now be at the forefront of the agenda for any company which currently does business in Europe, or which has aspirations to do so. For Canadian companies, the most immediate concern is that the UK will no longer be party to the Comprehensive Economic & Trade Agreement (CETA) which Canada negotiated with the EU, and which is expected to be ratified in early 2017. Canadian companies must therefore reconsider their position with respect to the UK; while the latter has traditionally been the logical choice for Canadian companies, given a common language and similar legal structure, Canadians will now have to question whether these commonalities will be reason enough to trump the upcoming challenges in the business relationship between the UK and the world’s largest single market.
If the answer to the above question is “no”, then alternatives must be sought. In this context, Belgium becomes an even more attractive destination for Canadian businesses looking to invest and/or expand their operations into Europe. What makes Belgium such an attractive option?
- Belgium has a very high level of linguistic and cultural fluency; with four languages on our borders – French, German, Dutch, and English across the Channel – and a rich cultural history of our own, Belgians are known for being multi-lingual and adapting to different cultures with ease.
- Belgium has long been known as “the crossroads of Western Europe”, and is located squarely in the middle of the “Blue Banana”, which represents 60% of Europe’s buying power; there are half a billion potential customers within a 4-hour drive of Brussels – this is 40 times as many customers as the equivalent distance from Toronto
- Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is arguably the most important city within the EU and is the de facto capital of the world’s largest political bloc, housing the Commission, Parliament, and Council of the EU, as well as NATO headquarters.
- Brussels is the home of a wide variety of major European political and trade organizations, which are represented by 5 000 diplomats, 15 000 lobbyists, and 1 500 international professional federations.
- Belgium plays host to the decision centres of approximately 2 300 multinationals, and with a large expatriate community which makes Belgium a microcosm of the world, we are an ideal test market; if your product is successful in Belgium, it can be successful anywhere!
- We have the densest road and rail network in all of Europe, as well as multiple top-rated international passenger and cargo airports and ports. Not only do we offer daily high-speed rail connections to major cities throughout Europe, Brussels Airport has the most landings of long-haul international flights, connecting with major global destinations.
- The single largest recurring cost for any business is rent, whether office or industrial space; corporate rent in Belgium is amongst the lowest in Western Europe, averaging ¼ of that in London, and ½ of that in Paris or Frankfurt, while being conveniently placed in the centre of all three cities.
- We have an extremely welcoming regulatory environment and an extremely competitive effective corporate tax structure, with several programs & initiatives in place to support business and trade.
- It’s easier to establish a business in Belgium than anywhere in the EU – this can be done online in only 4 days!
To learn more about why Belgium is your perfect solution to the challenges posed by Brexit, check out our Business with Belgium Trade and Investment Seminar series!
What are you waiting for? It’s time for you to also say #Yes2Belgium!