National authorities in Brussels have asked for an increase in the budget of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) which helps laid off workers cope with financial difficulties.
They also want to significantly “broaden the scope” of the programme amid fears that the divorce talks could crash and burn causing significant damage to the European economy.
Britain is Belgium’s fourth largest trading partner in the world, behind only France and Germany, buying 8.8 per per cent of all the goods and services it exports at a value of £26.5 billion a year.
The country’s major ports, such as Zeebrugge, are also a significant gateway for goods between the UK and the rest of the world and stand to lose a huge chunk of their business in the event of no-deal.
And now the Belgian national Government is moving to shore up its economic position, calling for contingency measures to be put in place to protect people and business from the potentially disastrous consequences.
A report its by High Level Group on Brexit, published back in February, warned there could be a “drastic drop in exports” which would leave many businesses facing a bleak and uncertain future.
It states: “Belgium calls for broadening the scope of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund and an increase in the means available until definitive relations with the United Kingdom are ratified.”
The EGF is one of the EU’s key measures to help workers made redundant get back into employment and was set up as a counterbalance to the increased job insecurity caused by globalisation.
It currently has a budget of around £20 million a year as is mostly deployed when there have been large scale job losses of 500 or more, such as a big local employer going under.
Britain has never received for a penny from the scheme, which was set up in 2007, despite the fact that all member state contribute to it. In that time it has received 148 applications from 21 Member States.
Last month academics researching the implications of a no-deal Brexit calculated that the EU is set to lose twice as many jobs as Britain if the two sides cannot agree a good trade deal.
In a landmark report experts at Belgium’s leading university Catholic Leuven revealed 1.2 million ordinary Europeans are set to lose their jobs if eurocrats cannot find a compromise agreement.
David Davis has said that what he calls the “North Sea littoral” of countries – our neighbours stretching from France around to Sweden – need a trade deal with the UK as soon as possible.
He said: “All of them know that the impact of no deal would be quite dramatic, more dramatic than for us. The interests in those other countries is as much engaged in having a deal as ours is and that’s what will drive it in the end.”
Earlier this year the respected consultancy firm Deloitte produced separate analysis showing that Germany’s car makers stand to lose £6 billion in sales every year from a hard Brexit.
That would mean factories having to shed 18,000 highly skilled workers from what is the country’s trademark industry, which is already in dire straits thanks to the dieselgate scandal.