‘No deal’ Brexit could cost 1.2 million EU jobs: Belgian minister
The European Union could lose 1.2 million jobs if Britain leaves the bloc without a deal, Belgium's economy minister said Friday, warning that his own country would suffer a "catastrophic" impact.
Kris Peeters made the comments amid growing fears that the slow pace of Brexit negotiations means Britain will withdraw in March 2019 without agreement on future trade arrangements and customs.
“The potential impact for our country could well be catastrophic,” he said in a statement, adding that without a deal “Britain would no longer be part of a customs union”.
“According to our calculations, the customs fees for imports from the United Kingdom and exports to the UK would reach a total of 2.22 billion euros ($2.62 billion),” he said.
“Under this scenario, Belgium would lose 42,000 jobs, Britain 526,000 and the EU as a whole not less than 1,200,000.”
In Belgium, a no-deal Brexit would have “grave consequences” for the Port of Zeebrugge, on the North Sea.
“Traffic to the UK represents 45 percent of business at the port, 5,000 jobs and an economic value of 500 million euros ($590 million),” Peeters said, adding that a million new cars are shipped via Zeebrugge to Britain each year.
The warning came as EU leaders during a summit in Brussels approved internal preparations for Brexit trade talks, but said there was insufficient progress on divorce issues to formally open them until at least December.
The Belgian figures show “how important it is to reach a deal”, while also demonstrating that “we have to prepare ourselves for the worst-case scenarios,” Peeters added.
The figures came from a study by a high-level group set up by the Belgian economy ministry in 2016 to look at the impact of Brexit, he said.