As a neighbouring country with which Flanders has strong historical, cultural, economic and political ties, the United Kingdom (UK) is of course a priority country for Flemish foreign policy. It is therefore logical that Flanders is strongly committed to the UK through the General Representation of the Government of Flandersand strong cultural, economic and political contacts.
The Government also maintains close ties with the parliaments of the three countries who enjoy self-government within the United Kingdom: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Due to the strategic location of Flanders, there have traditionally been extensive maritime and commercial contacts with England, Wales and Scotland. In more recent history, a close bond was forged by the huge sacrifice made by the United Kingdom in World War I when 200,000 British lost their lives on the Flemish battlefields. These ‘Flanders Fields’ remain a household name in the United Kingdom and thousands of British flock to Flanders every year to pay tribute to the fallen in the war cemeteries in the Westhoek. With the project ‘100 Years of the Great War (2014-2018)’ Flanders will commemorate the centenary of WWI in an appropriate and serene manner. An important memorial project is the Flanders Fields Memorial Garden in London.
In the cultural sphere, we attach great importance to presentations of our heritage and the Flemish cultural sector.
From an economic point of view, the United Kingdom is one of the most important Flemish trading partners (fourth export country). In terms of logistics, cooperation with the United Kingdom is very important for our four ports. In particular, the coastal ports of Zeebrugge and Ostend focus strongly on the UK market. On a political level, further monitoring of Brexit is a very important topic for Flanders. The Government will closely monitor the negotiations surrounding the withdrawal of the United Kingdom and their future relationship with the EU. We want fair negotiations that take into account the Flemish core interests.