Lloyd’s of London to open office in Brussels


As the UK triggers article 50, more British-based multinationals are expected to look to Brussels as a secure EU base

Brexit fallout

Prime minister Charles Michel said the decision by insurer Lloyd’s of London to open an office in Brussels was “outstanding news”. The world’s oldest and largest insurance market is the first multinational company to announce a move to the mainland following the triggering this week of Article 50 By British prime minister Teresa May.

“This shows the attraction of Belgium as a land to invest in after Brexit,” Michel said. Details concerns the extent of the Brussels location and how many people will be employed have not yet been decided. CEO Inga Beale did say that the office would be operational from 1 January 2019 – just weeks before the deadline for the UK’s negotiations on the end of membership of the European Union.

While the terms of that departure have still to be discussed, Lloyd’s – fittingly for a historic risk-taker, intends to get the jump on the market. “It is important that we are able to provide the market and customers with an effective solution that means business can carry on without interruption when the UK leaves the EU,” Beale said. “Brussels met the critical elements of providing a robust regulatory framework in a central European location.”

Michel, meanwhile, promised that Belgium would adopt a constructive attitude to Brexit negotiations. “We are convinced that any agreement must benefit both the United Kingdom and the European Union,” he said. “Transition measures must allow for a smooth transition, provided they are clearly defined and a fitting legal framework is in place. It is crucial that the rights of EU citizens living in the UK are safeguarded, under the principle of reciprocity.” 

‘Bad for UK, bad for EU’

Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois told the programme Terzake that Wednesday was “a historic but sad day” that was “bad for the UK and bad for the European Union. We are losing an incredibly important member state.” 

He went on to talk about the effect Brexit could have on Flanders, emphasising that negotiations must seek to control damage to Europe’s economies. “The UK is our fourth-largest trading partner. In 2015, we exported more than €720 billion in goods. One in four jobs in Flanders is dependent on trade with the UK.”

The “worst-case scenario”, he continued, “is that we don’t negotiate a good trade accord and that we fall back to the tariffs imposed by the World Trade Organisation.” Some of the industries that are particularly vulnerable when it comes to UK trade are textiles, car manufacturing, agriculture and the food industry. The port of Zeebrugge, he emphasised, depends on the UK for 45% of its activities.

In related news, more than 100 British nationals living in Brussels have begun or completed the procedure to gain Belgian nationality, while many other have applied to their local council for information on how to do so. 

Elsene, with 1,535 British residents – the most of all 19 municipalities – has received more than 300 inquiries, with 41 people now naturalised and 26 others on the way. Brussels-City received 46 inquiries, half of which are now complete. The same goes for Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe, where 37 applications were received.

Photo: Lloyds of London building at One Lime Street

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