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3 Mar 2020 11:35 AM | Tim Reynolds

The Belgian Federal Public Service (FPS) Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment has established a website on the #COVID19 virus that is available in English as well as Flemish, French and German.

Contact us if you want the BBCA to post a News Story or an Event that is strongly linked to the British Community in Brussels.  We reserve the right to select items for publication and to edit items as required for style and space.

Email    BBCA.NewsAndEvents@gmail.com


News and Events -----------

  • 25 Mar 2021 2:41 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    15 top notch four-person teams took part in our first virtual Quiz Night on the evening of 24 March to raise funds for our charity partners. Over six rounds of tough questions, intellectual battle was commenced and the eventual winners – by just one point – were the ‘Brain Drain again’ team.


    Stuart Cummings was our quizmaster for the night with Lilian Eilers providing technical support at the Zoom controls to shuffle the various teams in and out of their Breakout rooms.

    The six rounds covered Geography, Science and Nature, Arts and Literature, Food and Drink, History, and a final Music Round.

    The 15 teams represented the broad nature of the BBCA community with teams from our four charities: the Community Help Service (CHS), the British Charitable Fund (BCF), the Wednesday Club with two teams from the Royal British Legion. Two teams were also fielded by the Brussels Women’s Club, and one team from the Royal Brussels British Football Club who were the eventual winners: Brain Drain Again!

    15 teams was the maximum for practical and technology reasons, so our apologies to those who tried to get involved after entry had to close.

    Prizes for the winning team – in the form of shopping vouchers – were provided by our friends at Stonemanor. Our Events sub-committee led by Nikki Hayes also provided ‘thank you’ gifts to Stuart and Lilian.

    And our thanks to all involved. The evening was great fun, and we hope to repeat the event – or something similar – in the not-too-distant future!

  • 24 Mar 2021 3:20 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    Updated 25 March. After a morning of discussions with the various regional governments, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced today (24 March 2021) the new measures, which will come into force for a period of four weeks.


    The committee noted a new high seven-day average of 221 hospitalisations and the doubling of the number of cases every two weeks. It also noted an increase in the positivity rate last week, with teenagers (10-19 years old) and the 40-64 age group accounting for the largest increases. Most of the recent COVID outbreaks are in education and work.

    “The British variant of coronavirus has become dominant [in Belgium]," said De Croo. "Intensive care units do not know how much longer they can keep going. The nature of the virus has changed."

    Based on these findings, the Belgian Concertation Committee has decided on a set of temporary measures to reverse this upward trend. 

    They are:

    1. Gatherings of up to 4 people outside

    Groups of people (children up to 12 years old not included) can meet outdoors with a maximum of four people only - down from 10. Households with more than four people can of course move in larger numbers.

    2. Non-essential stores by appointment only

    Non-essential stores can only welcome customers by appointment, and the maximum number of customers that can be simultaneously on site depends on the size of the store, but the absolute maximum is 50 people. Two people from the same household can be in the store at the same time - but preferably shop alone.

    Home deliveries and "click-and-collect" are still possible, provided there is no physical contact and the customer does not enter the store.

    Essential stores (including grocery stores, pharmacies, but also hygiene products stores, fabric stores, florists and nurseries, telecom stores and bookstores) can continue to welcome customers without appointment. 

    Update: The Ministry  has now specified the establishments or parts of establishments that can remain open. They are:

    • Food stores, including night shops
    • Hygiene and care products stores
    • Pet food stores
    • Pharmacies
    • Newsagents and bookstores
    • Petrol stations
    • Telecommunications stores
    • Medical device stores
    • DIY stores
    • Garden centers and nurseries
    • Flower and plant shops
    • Wholesale stores for professionals
    • Retail businesses that sell clothing fabrics
    • Haberdashery and stationery stores
    • Service providers such as car washes, ice cream parlours and real estate agents can continue to operate.

    3. Closure of non-medical contact professions

    Non-medical contact trades must close. This includes (amongst others):

    • Beauty salons;
    • Non-medical pedicure salons;
    • Nail salons;
    • Massage parlours;
    • Hairdressers and barbers;
    • Tattoo and piercing parlours.

    4. Youth and education

    Classes at all levels of education (primary and secondary education, part-time artistic education, higher education and social advancement) are suspended from 29 March to 2 April inclusive. Nursery schools remain open. Examinations can, however, take place during the week preceding the Easter holidays.

    Between 29 March and 2 April, day care will be provided for children whose parents perform functions where teleworking is not possible and for people who are unable to look after the children. Classes will resume after the Easter holidays, on Monday 19 April, if possible entirely face-to-face for the secondary level.

    Youth camps and extracurricular activities remain authorised, in small groups of no more than 10 young people, and without overnight stays.

    5. Stricter telecommuting controls

    Controls on compliance with the teleworking obligation will be strengthened. Employers must keep a register specifying who is present at the workplace and when. Public administrations are also required to respect teleworking obligations.

    6. Non-essential travel remains prohibited

    Non-essential foreign travel remains prohibited during the Easter holidays. Border controls will be significantly strengthened.

    7. Events

    The maximum number of participants for static demonstrations on public roads is limited to 50.

    8. Importance of 'golden' ground rules

    The Concertation Committee reiterated the importance of the following elements:

    • Respect by the population for the sanitary measures in force - social distancing, facemasks, handwashing etc;
    • A strict control of compliance with these rules by the police and inspection services;
    • Compulsory teleworking as well as the strict control of its application by the inspection services;
    • Measures taken by local authorities to avoid crowding in high-traffic areas.

    This ministerial decree will remain in force until April 25 inclusive.

    You can find the full notice (in French) here

  • 24 Mar 2021 12:49 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    In the latest in their series on expat groups in Belgium, the Bulletin’s Sarah Crew talked to BBCA Chair Glenn Vaughan and Vice-chair Tim Reynolds about Belgium, Brexit and what we are doing in and around Brussels.


    You can read her interview article here 'Beyond Brexit, the Brussels British Community Association continues to support citizens’ rights' and listen to the full interview here.

    The interview will also be included in the Bulletin’s Bruzz radio extract just after midday on Sunday 28 March and on Bulletin Radio on Monday 29 March at 7pm. Enjoy!

  • 9 Mar 2021 3:49 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    ICYMI hidden in the Budget presented to the House of Commons on 3 March was an inkling that UK citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years will, at long last, get the right to vote in general elections.


    The announcement was made in the fine print of the Budget and allocates some £2.5m to fund the change. Paragraph 2.41 of the Treasury Red Book, which sets out details of the government's planned spending says: "Overseas Electors - the government is providing an additional £2.5m to remove the limit preventing British citizens who live overseas from voting after 15 years."

    It is believed that legislation to effect the change will be laid before Parliament later this year. Successive governments have promised to change the law, passed in 2002, which removes UK citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years from the electoral roll.

    Old constituency

    British citizens living overseas are currently entitled to be registered to vote in UK Parliamentary elections for up to 15 years in the constituency they were registered before leaving the UK. The proposed changes will introduce 'votes for life'.

    A House of Commons ‘Research Briefing on Overseas voters’ was published the day after the Budget and provides details of the provisions relating to overseas voters in the Representation of the People Act 1985 and the proposals for change. It also summarises earlier attempts to change the 15-year rule.

    Who are we?

    The Brexpats Hear our voice group - a Citizens’ Rights campaigning and support group that campaigns for the preservation of the rights of British nationals in the EU – has just published the results of a survey they undertook to understand better who the British living outside of the UK are.

    Not surprisingly the found that "They can’t be defined by one simple label, the narrative has to change, they deserve better, they deserve far better". You can access their report here

  • 5 Mar 2021 12:35 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    This month’s UNICEF Anagram Quiz features well-known artists as the answers. As ever, the quiz is set and organised by quiz-maestro supreme Stuart Cummings, who is also setting the questions for the BBCA Quiz night on 24 March.


    The answers for UNICEF quiz will be names of well-known artists. You can download the entry sheet here. On the entry sheet for each question the number of letters corresponding to each clue is in parentheses and the number in bold represents the total number of letters in the name of the artist.

    As usual a future sporting event is used for the tie-break question and this month you are asked to guess the total number of points scored by the teams playing at home on the scheduled last day of the Six Nations rugby championship: March 20, 2021. The three games to be played on that day are Scotland vs. Italy, Ireland vs. England and France vs. Wales - the home teams are in bold.

    Prize winners

    The winner and ‘Artist Anagram Quiz Champion’ will be the person who has the highest score and whose tie-break answer (if applicable) is closest to the actual number of points scored by the home teams.

    The winner will receive three bottles of Saint Emilion Grand Cru. There will also be a prize of a bottle of champagne for the person whose tie-break answer is closest to the actual number of point scored by the three home teams..

    All entries for the March UNICEF Quiz must be emailed to unicefquiz@gmail.com by 1.00pm Brussels time on Saturday 20 March.

    The suggested entry fee of EUR 10 should be paid directly to the Ex-Pats for UNICEF account: BE83 3630 2680 8315 with the reference ‘Anagram Quiz March’.

    Even if you do not wish to participate in the quiz, consider making a donation to UNICEF. During the pandemic charities have struggled to maintain levels of support across a wide spectrum of activities. All the money raised by UNICEF Belgium this year will go to supporting the WASH (WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene) project in Rwanda.

    Please feel free to distribute this announcement widely to your friends, colleagues and fellow quiz team members.

    You can access the Quiz sheet here.

  • 26 Feb 2021 3:41 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    On Wednesday 24 March 2021, the BBCA will be holding its first online ZOOM Quiz. The Quiz will last for around two hours and will kick-off at 19:30 Brussels time, but participants will be asked to join online no later than 19:00 to go through the technical/logistical aspects of the event.

    Our Quiz master for the evening will be Stuart Cummings who, as many of you will know, has been running regular monthly quizzes in support of UNICEF in Belgium for several years. Over the COVID lockdown period Stuart has also run web-based quizzes that the BBCA has helped to promote.


    To take part in the BBCA Quiz, an entry fee of €8 per person will be charged with all proceeds being donated to the BBCA Community charities (British Charitable Fund, CHS, Royal British legion, and the Wednesday Club).

    Team event

    The BBCA Quiz will be run as a team event with general sessions (where everyone will be online together) and break-out sessions (where teams will be able to discuss their answers in private ‘virtual rooms’). The topics covered will include Geography, History, General Knowledge, Music and one or two Picture Rounds.

    Team members may be, but do not need to be, under the same roof; however, the maximum number of members in any team is four. You can organise your own team or enter individually and ask to be allocated to a team.

    Prizes

    Prizes will be awarded to the members of the winning team in the form of coupons for Stonemanor. We are all incredibly sad that Stonemanor has been experiencing so many problems with the new post Brexit export/import rules and would like to encourage as many people as possible to shop with them when they return to business as usual – hopefully in the not-too-distant future (see the BBCA article published on 26 February).

    The BBCA Quiz Night is an opportunity for you to spend a fun evening with a team of friends and/or family.

    How to enter

    If you wish to take part in this Quiz, and we sincerely hope that you do, please inform Nikki Hayes (by email to: hayesnicola6@gmail.com) mentioning, where applicable:

    (1) Your team name, team captain and the names and email addresses of the members of your team (if you have already a ready-formed team), or

    (2) Your name and email address (if you are joining as an individual or a group of less than four people) so that you can be allocated to a team.

    To participate and receive the Zoom invite for this event, please send the above information and transfer your participation fee of €8 per person to the BBCA account BE38 3631 6982 1172, with the reference ‘BBCA Quiz 2021’, no later than 19 March 2021.

    We look forward to seeing you there!

  • 26 Feb 2021 8:08 AM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    Stonemanor has been supplying British delicacies and favourite foodstuffs to anglophone and cosmopolitan Belgian consumers since the early 1980s. Over the years, the company has grown within its flagship store in Everberg, and also through its newer outlet in Sint-Genesius-Rode, to bring its customers the very best of British produce. But recently, Stonemanor has been forced to temporarily close due to Brexit-related supply issues. Now as supplies are gradually returning, we caught up with store manager Ryan Pearce to see how Brexit has affected the store and what the future holds.

    January and February 2021 have been difficult months for the business. Despite extensive preparations, a wave of unexpected logistics issues has hit supply chains out of the UK in the New Year. Due to low stocks, on the weekend of 6 and 7 February the two Stonemanor stores were forced to temporarily close for the first time in their 39-year history and a further week-long closure will end today (26 February). But we can reveal that the first significant deliveries of 2021 have now arrived at the ‘manor’ and shelves and fridges have been partially refilled.


    The store worked to stockpile before Christmas with three or four major deliveries a week rather than the usual two, but the plans were subverted by higher than anticipated sales. “We had a very good run up to Christmas,” says Ryan. “Which was good for the business, but not so good for our stockpiling plan. As fast as we were filling the shelves, they were emptying!”

    Fortunately, the week after Christmas two full deliveries temporarily refilled shelves and stock room reserves. Ryan and the Stonemanor team had anticipated a possible two week delay due to the end of the Brexit transition, but added delays again resulted in reducing stock levels as January turned into February.

    Now, at last, the store has received deliveries from some smaller suppliers, including sausages and bacon, cheese and tea, and has arranged to receive one full truck a week from Ireland. The first full Irish shipment will be arriving early next week – it is setting off today from the Emerald Isle.

    “This arrangement will continue until at least our usual UK suppliers are able to confidently export to the EU again,” explains Tom.

    What was the problem?

    Essentially the issue is new paperwork and understanding the needs of import and export systems now the UK is a third country outside the EU single market and custom union. Normally, Stonemanor works with Ramsden International as their main logistics partner – a company with decades of experience in international food supply.

    “We placed orders for delivery in the first week of January with Ramsden and they were confident that deliveries would be made,” says Ryan. However, despite assurances from UK government authorities, issued to Ramsdens and other logistics firms on Christmas Day, that the use of meursing codes (used to determine which commodity code and how much duty is applicable) would not be required to enable export, in practise in the New Year it turned out they were needed.


    With up to 22,000 product lines on the shelves of the stores, full itemisation and correct customs coding of all the items in a large, mixed consignment is not a trivial matter. And everything must be double-checked and 110% correct before orders can be released to avoid delays, or worse, rejection during border checks.

    There has been a huge learning curve for Ramsden and Stonemanor. The store also runs its own truck alongside the Ramsden service for some items. “We have now set up our own master file of commodity codes,” says Ryan. “Once we have got all products finalised and validated then the supply issues should ease.”

    Consequences?

    Obviously, the delay and extra paperwork has a cost, and this is yet to be fully quantified. In addition, in the short term there may be changes to the stores offer. “Waitrose products will be limited for a while,” explains Ryan. “We use our own truck for them but are focusing on getting the main Ramsden supply line right first.”

    Importing chilled meat products is also now problematic from the UK. So where are we to get our British bangers? “We are still able to import frozen sausages,” says Ryan. “But not chilled. There are thoughts that some sausage recipes – like a Cumberland with a certain herb content – could make it through the import regulations. We are hoping this will be an opportunity for UK producers to innovate.” Or alternatively, at the moment, it is an opportunity for Irish suppliers to step in.

    While we wait for the new model UK Export Sausage some other services traditionally offered by Stonemanor will need to be re-evaluated once the basic logistics for groceries are in place.

    The UK post service has been an extremely popular free service run by Stonemanor. “We sell British stamps and have provided a free service to take postal items back to UK,” says Ryan. “But that service is currently suspended due to the uncertainty over the transport links.” And the long-term future of the service could be problematic too, due to the need to know the customs status – and therefore have correct declarations and paperwork – for any post taken back to the UK. “We will need to see what we can do here,” says Ryan. “Obviously, we don’t want our trucks being turned back because of a post item that doesn’t have the right documentation.”

    Similarly, the store sells its magazines on a sale or return basis, but that requires regular deliveries to ensure timely return. In addition, the Argos catalogue service is currently suspended while the logistics are being sorted.

    Food focus

    Ryan’s full focus now is on getting the food side of the business back on track with regular predictable deliveries. “We will need to scrutinise how we operate the Argos service and re-evaluate before, hopefully, relaunching it. The food side of the supply chain now looks promising with the trucks moving. We hope to soon return to business as near our previous normal as possible,” he concludes.

    For the latest information on the supply situation, visit the Stonemanor website or Facebook page.

  • 19 Feb 2021 4:24 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    The implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) is now underway and the vast majority of British citizens resident in Europe on or before 31 December 2020 will be able to obtain their new residence documentation under the WA without difficulty. However, our friends in the British in Europe campaign group are hearing of some issues across different EU countries and have compiled a summary of what you can do if you hit a bump in the road.


    The new British in Europe summary

    • Explains the circumstances under which you may be refused a right of residence under the WA
    • Outlines what the WA and the EU Commission’s Guidance Note say about refusal of, or restrictions to, your right of residence, and
    • Provides you with some resources which may help if you are encountering difficulties or you think you may do so.

    You can find the full summary here

  • 19 Feb 2021 2:46 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    On Tuesday 9 February the Expat Welcome Desk (EWD) of the Brussels Commissioner’s office held a midday webinar on residence formalities and work/single permit procedures for UK citizens already residing and working in or intending to relocate to Belgium.


    Speakers at the event were from Fragomen’s Benelux Immigration Practice based in Brussels: Jo Antoons, Managing Partner, Natali Afsar, Associate, and Andreia Ghimis, Senior Consultant.

    The webinar was moderated by Amélie BOVY, Legal Advisor at the Expat Welcome Desk. Presentations from the event were made available to registered participants, but can now be accessed by everyone via this ‘gated’ link.

    A large number of questions were raised during the webinar including:

    • Are we protected during the process of obtaining a M card (if we lose our job, change status…)
    • Communes do not have much information regarding the M card, how long the process takes , can I already apply now ?
    • Is there a return right linked to the M card?
    • Freelancers in UK with Belgian clients do need or not a work permit ?
    • Can we introduce a request of nationality on the ground of a M card, or an annexe 56 or 58?
    • For holders of a special ID (SIC) card for EU civil servants within the EU institutions:
      • when they cancel the SIC before applying to the M card how do we prove work, residency and travel rights waiting for the appointment and M Card?
      • a recent ruling of the Belgian Supreme Court (Court de Cassation). A special ID card can constitute proof of lawful residence for EU nationals applying for BE nationality by declaration. Does this include British citizens?
      • what is the need/point to change from a Special ID to an M Card if the time on Special ID Card counts towards the 5yr residency requirement? Does the M Card give anything else which the Special ID does not?

    Did you know?

    The EWD organises seminars on specific themes for target audiences. These seminars are conducted by specialists selected by the EWD to provide in-depth knowledge of the topics covered.

    If you would like to be informed about these seminars, you can subscribe by sending an e-mail mentioning “Registration for future seminars” to seminars@commissioner.brussels.

  • 19 Feb 2021 2:09 PM | Tim Reynolds (Administrator)

    Earlier this week (16 Feb) our friends in Brexit and the Belgian Brits (BAABS) held an interesting webinar with Anthony Valcke on M Cards, residency and routes to becoming Belgian. Presentations from the webinar should be posted via a link on their Facebook page soon.


    However, in the meantime there were a few very clear takeaways from the event that apply to many ex-pat Brits in this group and have sparked a lively discussion over on the BABBS facebook page.

    The main points from the webinar are:

    • If you need legal support or have a really specific question for a lawyer about your residency rights or application to become Belgian, then Your Europe Advice offers free legal advice. NB/ Anthony Valcke works as a lawyer here.
    • The annexes you receive while waiting for your M Cards are not travel documents. *There is a risk that you may* not be able to re-enter Belgium with them as a resident *(particularly if you are travelling through other Schengen countries)*.
    • If you want to apply for Belgian nationality this year, you should not apply for an M-Card *until you have signed the nationality declaration* as an M-card is not valid as **proof of lawful residence towards* your nationality application. If you have already applied for or made an appointment to apply for one then cancel it, *if you intend on applying to become Belgian later in 2021.*
    • When you submit an application for the M Card, do not* give in your E (E+, F, F+) cards until you actually have the M Card handed to you. If the commune asks for you tell them to refer to the Royal Decree, or ask Your Europe Advice/a lawyer to write you a letter to take to the Commune.
    • All UK nationals who have no prospect of applying for Belgian nationality before the end of this year must apply for an M-card well before 31.12.2021.
    • *Finally, M Cards are not currently listed in the Royal decree as proof of lawful residence for the purposes of applying for Belgian nationality. However, we will work with Anthony in the future to lobby to change this, I would like this to be something we can help to change together and I'm sure we will be calling on you for help in due course.

    BABBs – The Movie

    Don’t forget BABBS is raising funds for a documentary project that aims to tell the world about how how Brexit is affecting us all! BABBs webinars and events are free (like BBCA Brexit events) to be as open, democratic and inclusive as possible, but if you could help BABBS to create the new film, the BABBS team would be very grateful! Find out more and how to donate here

Upcoming events

To contact us - Please Email to BBCA.members@gmail.com

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