- REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
- Belgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt told BI he has a seven-point pitch to finance businesses to convince them to come to Brussels.
- Points include Brussels’ location, its political importance, and its open economy.
- The minister was visiting London to meet with finance companies considering opening new EU subsidiaries.
LONDON – It’s no secret that countries across Europe are hoping to attract businesses from Britain as Brexit looms.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday ruled out Britain maintaining passporting rights post-Brexit, which allow businesses to sell goods and services across the EU. While May wants a new “broader agreement than ever before,” companies are worried they could lose part of their business and are setting up new licensed EU subsidiaries to ensure continuity no matter what happens after Britain leaves the EU.
Belgium is one of the countries hoping to attract businesses looking to hedge and the country’s finance minister told Business Insider how exactly he pitches businesses during a visit to London last week.
“I have a seven-point presentation,” Johan Van Overtveldt told BI.
“In Brussels, you’re at the political heart. We are host to the European Commission, the European Council, a lot of the regulatory bodies of the European Union, certainly also Nato.”
His second point is that Belgium is the “geographically at the centre of Europe” – or so Van Overtveldt argues.
“If you draw a circle – Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, London – more or less in the centre of it is Brussels.”
Third? 80% of Europe’s purchasing power is housed in a relatively small area stretching North to South from Denmark down to France, and West to East from the UK to Germany. Once again, Belgium’s position at the heart of this nexus makes it an ideal location to do business from.
“We’re a very open economy, we’re a very export-oriented economy,” Van Overtveldt continues. “We have a lot of talent.”
“We have fabulous wining and dining and other quality aspects of life,” he said, making his sixth point.
“And, last but not least, I think we have been turning around the business environment a lot in the last three years. Corporate tax rate reduction, tax shelter for startups, a much improved legal framework for crowdfunding and things like that.”
Van Overtveldt was visiting London to meet with businesses and convince them to set up European operations in Brussels. He told BI it is his third such visit to London in under a year.
“We talk to insurance people, the brokers industry, investment funds, financial infrastructure companies,” he said.
“I think if you want to convince people that they have a real opportunity in coming to Brussels in whatever shape or form and whatever timing, I think it’s noblesse oblige that you explain yourself, what you’ve been doing, and what you plan to do.”
In the same interview, Van Overtveldt told BI he thinks London will remain “a major financial centre” after Brexit and called for the EU to strike a quick trade deal with Britain to protect Belgian jobs.