British SMEs are using Flanders to turn Brexit into a business opportunity

British SMEs are using Flanders to turn Brexit into a business opportunity

New investment figures show that British firms are learning to adapt to the challenges of Brexit in imaginative ways.

Many are turning to Belgium, and the specific region of Flanders, to safeguard and expand their businesses.

Figures released by local government body Flanders Investment & Trade, show that after a challenging start to 2021, there was record investment from UK companies.

Flanders (the northern region of Belgium) has, over the last year, established itself as an important gateway to the European single market for UK businesses. 

Brexit was the deciding factor in crossing the Channel for no fewer than 30 of the 49 British companies that invested in the region in 2021, according to government body Flanders Investment & Trade.

Record number of investments by UK firms

That is the highest number investments projects ever from the UK in a single year, making the UK second in the list of foreign investors in Flanders.

At the start of 2021, many British companies struggled with the new bureaucracies required by Brexit. One aspect most didn’t expect was the different ways that EU countries, and even customs officers within those countries, would interpret the rules.

This led to uncertainty in delivery times and duties that acted as a barrier to EU customers doing business with the UK. 

Many decided that the most effective way of managing this was to establish a base in the EU.  Flanders was chosen for its transport links, geographical advantages, comparable tax rates, compact network and proficiency with English.

Since 2016, 95 foreign companies indicated that they decided to invest in Flanders to safeguard their business from the impact of Brexit. To date, these projects have generated 3,097 jobs in the region and represent a total investment value of EUR 2.21bn.

Flanders Minister-President Jan Jambon shared the announcement based on analyses by Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT), the agency responsible for attracting and supporting foreign investors.

Last year, international firms launched 295 new investment projects and announced the creation of 6,233 additional jobs in Flanders, both historically high figures.

These record-setting results are respectively due to a sharp increase in the number of mergers and acquisitions and a hefty rise in the number of R&D jobs. In total, foreign companies channelled 2.86 billion euros into their activities on Flanders’ soil.

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