Four years after Brexit and after several postponements, the so-called Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) has come into effect this week. The British Baroness and Minister for Cabinet Affairs Lucy Neville-Rolfe came to Zeebrugge on Friday to provide explanations.
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Neville-Rolfe highlighted the long trading traditions between our country and the United Kingdom. “It is impressive how we continued to trade after Brexit,” she says. “I am surprised by the constructive approach. Our common trade is on the rise and is almost back to its old pre-Brexit level.”
A different voice can be heard among academics. Belgian exports of goods to the United Kingdom fell by 13 percent between 2018 and 2021. This was calculated by Professor Hylke Vandenbussche (KU Leuven). However, according to figures from the British Embassy, total trade between Belgium and the United Kingdom amounted to £47.5 billion in 2017 and £46.5 billion in 2021.
Neville-Rolfe mainly came to listen to industry concerns about the new BTOM. She sat together with Flanders Investment and Trade, the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain, the Federation of the Belgian Food Industry, the Federation of Belgian Transporters and Logistics Service Providers and Voka. On Friday afternoon, the British minister will meet with Flemish Prime Minister Jan Jambon (N-VA) in Brussels.
The legislation surrounding BTOM will be introduced in phases in the coming months and mainly concerns animal and plant products. Agricultural products or flowers, for example, will from now on be subject to the new (sanitary and phytosanitary, ed.) controls.