Belgium embarrassed by arms supply to Britain

A new point of contention has emerged within the Belgian government and Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, who called it a “sensitive”will have to show imagination to solve it, preserve the cohesion of his fragile majority but also his country’s relationship with the United Kingdom.

It concerns an arms contract negotiated by London with a Belgian company, but now blocked by a row between the environmentalist left and the French-speaking liberal right, members of the federal government, because it would run afoul of equipment export laws for dual use (civilian and military) in the nuclear field.

“At the time of the war in Ukraine, while the prime minister is returning from Kiev, we must absolutely avoid any controversy with an ally.”, stormed, Monday, November 28, an alternate for the majority. However, a resurgence of tension is very noticeable within the coalition, since the information revealed on November 23 by the channel LN24 about this file classified secret defense.

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The United Kingdom intends to acquire Belgian high-tech equipment, namely an isostatic press, a device that reduces the porosity of metal parts and increases their density. EPSI, a company from East Flanders, has become a leader in this field, long dominated by American firms.

“Very important business partners”

The British authorities refer to an order with the aim of ” research “, undoubtedly military, but the equipment they hope to acquire can also be used for nuclear propulsion. According to Belgian sources, the British Army would also like to use this tool for the maintenance of its nuclear weapons.

Hence the current stalemate. Environmentalists and the French-speaking PS rely on a 1981 law, revised in 2010, which bans the export of dual-use materials if they can help the development of “non-peaceful” nuclear power. The region of Flanders – where EPSI is headquartered – has obviously given the export license – necessary as the UK is no longer a member of the EU – but the federal government must also give its approval after assessing the contract’s compliance with nuclear non-proliferation treaties.

An evaluation commission, which brings together representatives of a dozen ministries, only declared itself incompetent a few weeks ago. The Prime Minister indicated on November 24 that it would soon meet again and “decide in accordance with the law”. The head of government insisted at the same time that “The British are our neighbours, our partners in many areas; very important commercial partners, important also in the field of energy, and of course in NATO”.

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