North Sea Union proposed to ease Brexit relations

Summary

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, minister-president Geert Bourgeois said he would be in favour of a new trade coalition with regions that border the North Sea to help the UK ease into a post-referendum future

Life after Brexit

Flanders would be willing to join a new North Sea Union to enter trade relations with the UK after the country leaves the European Union, the The Daily Telegraph reports. Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois, whose portfolio also includes foreign trade, was once again arguing for what he called a “soft Brexit”.

Bourgeois (pictured) first spoke of a soft Brexit in a speech last month, following the UK’s 23 June vote to leave the EU. His words contrasted with the more aggressive terms used by Belgian prime minister Charles Michel, who insisted the interests of continuing member states would come far ahead of those of the British.

“I can’t imagine a situation where we have more barriers on trade in both directions,” Bourgeois told the Telegraph. “You are our fourth biggest export market. It is in our mutual interests to find a solution, and the majority of the EU now agrees that anything other than a soft Brexit would have a huge cost.”

The idea of a North Sea Union was first proposed by the Bremen regional government in Germany, which borders the North Sea. Bourgeois now believes the notion could be the basis for a new sort of co-operation between the UK and other European countries.

“I am not proposing a new EU,” Bourgeois told the paper. “My idea is a light structure on an intergovernmental basis, like the Mediterranean Union. There are so many areas in which we can work together on the enormous potential of blue industry in the oceans, whether it is the pharmaceutical sector, health or food production.”

Photo: Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA

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