Five Belgian Regions That Could Delay Or Entirely Halt Brexit Trade Deal

By Reina Ilagan

Dec 23, 2016 07:45 PM EST

With regional parliaments holding the right to vote in matters of foreign affairs, the intervention from five regional parliaments in Belgian's federal system could either delay or even entirely block the Brexit trade deal.

With Belgium's bid to end crippling squabbles between Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking Walloons, the nations has progressively decentralized its political structure.

Under this complex system, some deals may face several struggles in order to be approved as some regional administrators may refuse to signal the federal government with a go.

Such challenges happened on a landmark EU-Canada free trade deal. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement also did not have it easy. Although provisionally signed off by all 28 EU countries, the deal was put on hold after Wallonia decided against it. The deal was finally signed at the end of October after Wallonia was given last-minute concessions to drop its opposition to the agreement.

The same scenario could happen in securing a post-Brexit free trade deal with the European Union if the region moves to intervene.

Wallonia, with its 3.5 million population, has sustained its opposition to the trade deal until the very last minute of the crisis talks.

The region once had a booming economy, but it was badly hit by the closure of steel plants and coal mines at the end of the last century and after the 2008 economic crisis.

Another region that could block the Brexit deal is the French Community which previously opposed the Canada-EU trade agreement during the initial stage of the deal talks. The region raised its concern that the deal could give too much power to multinational companies as well as put pressure on governments.

Brussels, the country's capital city, also opposed to the deal during the final month of the negotiations. Belgium's Prime Minister Claude Michael announced that the federal government, the German community and Flanders had agreed on the deal, while Wallonia, the Brussels city government and the French Community voted against it. This caused Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland to walk out of the talks which had been on negotiations for seven years.

Another region that could intervene is Flanders. Its Prime Minister, Geert Bourgeois, has proposed a radical North Sea Union. Since the proposal aims to link Britain to a cluster of regional states to cushion the Brexit shock, it is unlikely for the region to seek to block the trade deal.

The federal government may also use its power to intervene. It holds the executive power in the Kingdom of Belgium in the similar system to the British one.

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