Opposition parties N-VA and Les Engagés fear an impact on jobs in Wallonia because the United Kingdom would have suspended a million-dollar order at Arms Factory FN Herstal.
That decision would come after the greens within the government blocked an export license of nuclear maintenance material. According to Walloon Economy minister Willy Borsus (MR), however, that contract is still being negotiated.
At the end of last week, the French-language news channel LN24 leaked that the government did not agree on the export of material produced in Flanders to the United Kingdom. It would be an isostatic press, which could be used to maintain the nuclear arsenal. The Green parties would block that file. Deputy Prime Minister for Ecolo Georges Gilkinet then declined further comment because it is secret, classified information and considered the leak a “serious mistake”.
The British, according to the opposition, cannot laugh at that. MP Georges Dallemagne of Les Engagés (the former cdH) said in the chamber on Thursday that the United Kingdom would suspend an order of 500 million euros from the Walloon FN Herstal. According to N-VA member of parliament Anneleen Van Bossuyt, Belgium is putting its credibility on the international stage at risk and our country comes across as an unreliable partner with regard to the United Kingdom as a NATO ally.
“How long will you tolerate green dogmatism?” , she threw Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open Vld) at the feet.
According to the Croo, the Advisory Committee on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons (CANVEK) has yet to consider the dossier and the government will then decide. “The British are our neighbours. They are a partner in many areas and a very important trading partner, also in the field of energy and in NATO. At times like these, it is important to value partnerships, but also to respect the legislation in our country.”
De Croo did not elaborate on possible repercussions for FN Herstal. However, a high-ranking source says that the British “do not link the files together”. The issue of the export permit will be resolved within the government, it says.
The contract between FN Herstal and the United Kingdom “is still being negotiated,” Walloon Economy minister Willy Borsus said on Thursday evening. In addition, the amount involved is indeed high, “but much, much lower than the amounts that are circulating in the press today,” explains Borsus.
Les Engagés, meanwhile, have asked to convene a General Affairs Committee in the Walloon Parliament “as soon as possible”. “Will Ecolo’s dogmatism in this matter cost the Walloon economy again?”, asks President Maxime Prévot on Twitter. “Are we good enough economically to shoot ourselves in the foot like that?”