On 19 March, Minister-President Bourgeois received the Irish Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee in Brussels. They discussed the Brexit and the newly announced agreement on the transitional period, which should provide European and British companies legal certainty. While the Irish border issue remains an important bottleneck in the Brexit negotiations, there is agreement on the need for an emergency plan or a backstop: if the negotiating partners fail to work out a watertight solution to the Irish border issue, this emergency plan come into effect. Possibly this emergency plan means that Northern Ireland will be part of the customs union.
In view of the continuing difficulties in the Brexit negotiations, Minister McEntee and Minister-president Bourgeois are satisfied that the British subscribe the need for an emergency plan. Both Ireland and Flanders are proponents of a "soft border" on the Irish island. And both believe that the Good Friday agreements must be respected once the Brexit is a fact.
Minister-president Geert Bourgeois: "This is not only crucial for the interpersonal and economic relations between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. In this way, unfair competition is also avoided between the UK as a third country and the EU27. Here, Flanders, as the fourth trading partner of the UK, has strongly insisted that the competitiveness of our companies be safeguarded ".
General Representation of the Government of Flanders to the UK and Ireland