New Research for Flanders finds that nearly 74% of British companies agree that they were ‘forced’ to consider other markets due to post-Brexit bureaucracy

London, 6th June 2023 - Flanders, the northern region of Belgium, has today announced Gateway²Britain, an innovative digital application that will bring visibility and transparency for trading with Flanders into one place. It is being delivered by a partnership between Port of Antwerp-Bruges, VLAIO (Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship), Flanders Investment & Trade and Deloitte (technical delivery partner), in close cooperation with the Belgian Customs authorities. Their aim is to make trade between Flanders and Britain as frictionless as possible.

Traders are likely to be able to validate an initial version of Gateway²Britain by the end of this year. The application will allow traders to fill out just one dataset online, which is then automatically shared with all the relevant supply chain & logistics partners.

The UK is a significant trading partner for Flanders. Full-year trade figures for 2022 revealed that the total value of exports from the UK to Flanders amounted to 33.77 billion EUR. Imports into the UK from Flanders totaled 27.95 billion EUR, making the UK Flanders’ 4th highest export market. Flanders is in 16th position as a world goods exporter.

Research carried out among more than a thousand UK traders for Flanders Investment & Trade in May 20231 found that nearly 74% of UK companies agree2 that they had been forced to consider alternative markets due to the bureaucracy involved in trading with the EU post Brexit. Almost half of the respondents (48%) said they would trade more if the process was simplified and just over two in five (42%) had seen trade decrease with the EU since Brexit. The research was carried out for Flanders Investment & Trade by Censuswide.

[1] The research was conducted by Censuswide in May 2023 with UK businesses with between 50 and 500 employees who trade with the EU or consider it. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles and are members of The British Polling Council. 1002 responses were received.

[2] ‘Strongly agree’ and ‘Somewhat agree’ answers combined.

Jan Jambon, Minister-President of the Government of Flanders, currently visiting the UK commented: “Britain is an important trading partner for Flanders. We know from our research that British companies have been looking at alternative markets due to the bureaucracy involved post Brexit. Gateway²Britain signals the end of that bureaucracy. It makes life simple again, whilst meeting all the demands of the new rules. Flanders prides itself as a high-performance, R&D region, and this platform and its potential use in international trade worldwide are a great demonstration of our strategy to belong to the top innovative hubs in Europe.”

Dirk Verlee, Trade and Investment Counsellor at Flanders Investment & Trade, based at the Belgian Embassy in London, explained the significance of Gateway²Britain for consumers; “Flanders is a key route in and out of the EU for British traders. This means that if Gateway²Britain solves the challenges of Brexit in Flanders, supply issues that have affected the UK should also be solved.”

Annick De Ridder, Vice-Mayor of the City of Antwerp and President of the board of directors of Port of Antwerp-Bruges: "Port of Antwerp-Bruges is a world-renowned port with a long tradition of facilitating the supply chain. We are fully committed to digitalization. The building blocks are now in place to realize the vision behind Gateway2Britain for the widest possible range of stakeholders. As a major port for those exporting to the UK, this is also an important opportunity for the competitiveness of Flanders."

Flanders is already a popular route into the EU for British companies due to its proximity to both the UK and Europe’s major business centres. A market of 400 million consumers is within 6 hours of the region, or 60% of Europe's purchasing power. The world-leading seaports of Antwerp-Bruges, Ghent and Ostend are all in Flanders and the region has three international airports and sophisticated transport hubs, and over 650 European distribution centers.

Around 90% of British goods that are imported into Flanders are further processed and re-exported afterwards. Gateway²Britain will make Flanders an even more attractive route into the EU. No other EU country has yet been able to introduce a similar, comprehensive data-driven system to ease the friction created by Brexit. The concept behind the new application will be further explained at Multimodal NEC Birmingham UK on 13th June 2023.

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