History

6 Belgavia Square

Welcome to the historic overview page of the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain, founded in 1890. The BLCC has changed radically over the years but, at heart, has remained an organisation that is successfully helping its members to do trade with and in the United Kingdom.

In order to maintain the most complete overview of important historical events, we invite members to forward any interesting information they may have about past events, including anecdotes. You may send your information to info@blcc.co.uk

 


Today:

 The BLCC continues to fine tune its offer of practical business services and events on a daily basis. New services vary from advice on SEIS and EIS schemes for young Belux entrepreneurs trying to attract investment, to offering mobile phone facilities and auto-enrolment legislation solutions to Belux employers with UK-based personnel. 


2016: a historic year in the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union with the EU Referendum aka Brexit.

On 23 June, the British public vote to leave the EU in a shock referendum. A new era in the economic and political ties between the UK and the continent begins with unknown consequences. The BLCC offers it services to the Belgian, Luxembourg and regional authorities as a local liaison officer and starts to inform members and companies about the impact of Brexit on a regular basis.

On 1 January 2016, the BLCC is granted a 3 year renewal of its accreditation credentials which were originally obtained in 2013.


2015: the BLCC is 125 years young.

In 2015 the BLCC accounting department merges most of its activities with Try Lunn & Co, a local chartered accounting firm in Kingston-upon-Hull – near the BLCC Northern office – in order to safeguard the growth of the BLCC and to be able to offer a much wider range of tax and accountancy solutions to BLCC members. We are joined by Jules Harrison, PA to the Chairman and Events Manager.


2014: WW1 Centenary

In November 2014, the Flanders Fields Memorial Garden is inaugurated by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II and King Philip I of Belgium at the Wellington Barracks next to Buckingham Palace. The garden is a joint project between the BLCC, the Guards Museum, Flanders House in London and Piet Blanckaert Landscape Gardener.


2013: Accreditation and 100th anniversary of incorporation

In order to further professionalise the network of Belgian and Luxembourg Chambers abroad, the Federation of Belgian Chambers and the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce introduce an Accreditation Programme in 2012. The BLCC obtains its first official accreditation on 1 January 2013 for a period of 3 years.

2013 is also the year in which the BLCC celebrates 100 years of incorporation at Companies House.


 2012: Club House facilities and the London Olympics

The BLCC stepped in to save the facilities and services offered by the now defunct Anglo-Belgian Club and created a new BLCC Club Class membership category for members in need of a London base. Practically, this means that members can now use 4 locations in central London with co-working space, meeting rooms, bedrooms, bar and restaurant facilities and even a gym, free of charge or at reduced rates.

2012 is also the year of the London Olympics and the BLCC is fully involved in the setting up and running of the National Belgian House at Inner and Middle Temple in London. The House is voted best national house by BBC2.

The Young Chamber is integrated into the Anglo-Belgian Society as its purposes are more aligned with this organisation and the BLCC chooses to serve only professional and business members going forward.


 2009: Legal department, trade fairs and a Northern office

In 2009, Philippe Sauvage, a Belgian solicitor with a British law degree joins the BLCC and the Chamber starts to offer in-house legal advice to its members. He is also in charge of the Trade Fairs department and organises Belux Pavilions at 4 to 5 trade fairs every year. He becomes a director in 2013 and a British citizen in 2016.

In June 2009, the BLCC opens its first Northern office in the UK, in East Yorkshire near Kingston-upon-Hull. This office shows that the BLCC is active in the whole country and the administrative office has been run from Westwood House along the M62 ever since. The office is run by Yvonne Claxton.


20 June 2006: Back in business.

At the 115th General Meeting, the board is pleased to announce that the BLCC is back in profit. The first full year under new management shows a considerable increase in business services income and membership. The Chairman can already promise even better figures for the next financial year.

During the same year, Anne Gerard from Belgium is appointed as the new Events Manager.


01 July 2005: Project subsidies

At the beginning of the summer in 2005 and after intensive lobbying by the Belgian Chambers Federation in Brussels, a new form of subsidies is made available to the Belgian Chambers Abroad. This time, subsidies are project based and provide maximum 50% of the total investment needed. Needless to say that these are substantially lower than before but they provide a welcome extra to other revenue streams which are increasing slowly but surely.


14 February 2005: Re-launch of the BLCC and TYC

On Valentine's day, H.E. Ambassador Thierry de Gruben organised a reception as a sign of the strong diplomatic support in London for both the BLCC and the Young Chamber. The Chamber can face a bright future again. Willem Sels, TYC president hands over his presidency to Xavier Rijmenans and his new board.


25 January 2005: Extra-ordinary General Meeting at the KBC in London.

On 25 January 2005, an EGM was convened to inform the members of the changes in the Chamber.

At the board meeting afterwards, the full board resigned and Michel Vanhoonacker and Elisabeth Delahaye were elected as Chairman and Director respectively and a new era began for the Chamber without Belgian Federal support. Luxembourg and particularly H.E. Ambassador Jean-Louis Wolzfeld continued to provide financial support giving the BLCC a life line for the time being.

The new team immediately started organising new events for 2005 and everything possible was done to increase income from the financially, crucial business services.

Margaret Millgate, previously employed by the BLCC in the accounting department started working on an independent basis guaranteeing continuity in the salary and VAT administration department.


2004: Karel De Gucht

At the end of 2004, the Federal Government, in particular Minister Karel De Gucht, decided to stop subsidising Belgian Chambers Abroad with immediate effect. This unexpected and abrupt decision jeopardised the survival of the BLCC as over half of its income came from this source.

The BLCC board decided that the only way forward was to close the BLCC. Michel Vanhoonacker approached the board and offered to save the BLCC and took over the lease of the office.


2001: The Young Chamber

The Young Chamber (TYC) - part of the Belgium-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce (BLCC) - is a new platform for young Belgian and Luxembourg people living in the UK. TYC was created to enhance the relationships between young professionals of the Belgian and Luxembourg communities.
TYC organise regular activities that help those young professionals to integrate in their new living environment.


1979: Luxembourg joins the Belgian Chambers Abroad.

In 1979, the Luxembourg and Belgian Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain merged to create the current Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce.


1945: Post War period

It was not until 1945 that the Chamber could once again resume its part in the domain of commercial relations with Belgium. In 1948, in order to promote abroad the products and services offered by Belgium, it published the first edition of its annual directory “WHERE TO BUY IN BELGIUM”. From a very small circulation of 2,000 copies for the first issue, the welcome which this publication received resulted in a much larger subsequent distribution and the 1966 edition had a circulation of 10,000 copies, which reached selected importers in the United Kingdom and more than 60 countries overseas, representing one third of the world’s purchasing power at the time.

Shortly thereafter the Chamber revived the practice, which had fallen into disuse during the previous ten years, of periodically holding luncheons. It was proud to be able to welcome, as guests of honour, between 1952 and today, many personalities from the political, financial, commercial and industrial worlds, both British and Belgian.

It was in 1945 that the Belgo-Luxembourg Economic Union was re-formed, and in February 1948, at The Hague, the Benelux was born. In March 1957, the Treaty of Rome was signed and the Common Market, the fruits of more than a century’s toil, came into existence.


1940: The Second World War

Trouble was spreading throughout the world and the new disasters of World War II were soon ravaging Europe. This time commerce between Britain and Belgium came to a complete standstill and the Chamber was cut off from the majority of its members.

Undeterred, it turned its activities in another direction and with the unreserved support of the Belgian Colonial Minister in London, took the initiative of establishing a Colonial Information Office designed to aid the expansion of commercial relations between Great Britain and the Congo, even though, as the military situation intensified, there was a corresponding contraction of all other types of activity. Subsequently, with the same aim in view, the Chamber formed the “Belgian Congo Buyers and Shippers Section”.


1918: The inter-war period

The inter-war period should have been one of peaceful battles; it is sufficiently recent, however, for us to remember the economic confusion, the political chaos and the innumerable conferences which led to nothing. In the place of gold, there became a paper currency. The traditional commercial policy of even Great Britain had to undergo modification and the synchronisation which existed between the policy of Britain and that of Belgium was to be broken.

During that period, the Chamber was to pursue its activities further in the direction of the objectives for which it had been founded: documentation, mediation and protection. It published the Anglo-Belgian Trade Journal, later replaced by the Journal of the Belgian Chamber of Commerce, and succeeded by Belux Magazine and the Electronic Newsletters which the Chamber issues today; it strove unwaveringly to aid and assist economic relations between Belgium and the United Kingdom and set up its courts of arbitration and its litigation department.


1914: First World War

Then came the 1914-1918 war.

When this unexpected blow of destiny struck, it was the British who were to bring the Chamber to the forefront of the Belgian institutions outside Belgium. Permission was granted, by virtue of the confidence placed in the Chamber, to collect alone more than £21,000 for the Belgian refugees who had already been welcomed so warmly in Britain. Belgium remains as grateful for this today, as it did that first day.


1900: The early 1900's

It was during this early period that the Chamber produced a number of valuable surveys and took an active part in a number of Congresses and International Exhibitions, such as that of Paris in 1900. The Chamber played a major role in organising British participation in the Universal Exhibitions held in Belgium in 1905 and 1910, even though the Chancellor of the Exchequer refused any subsidy to his compatriots.


1890: The original Belgian Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain is born.

The Belgian Chamber of Commerce in Great Britain was created in 1890.

A few months junior to the Belgian Chamber of Commerce in France, it is, therefore, the second oldest of the Belgian Chambers of Commerce outside Belgium and one of the founder-members of the Fédération des Chambres de Commerce Belges à l’Etranger in Brussels which links them all together.

This Chamber came into being at the time when the gold coin was universal currency and formed the basis of a free economy, the time of vast markets with much smaller demands and far less competition than at present.

Even in those days, Belgian enterprise was making its presence felt throughout the world; there were Belgians building the underground railway system in Paris, as well as railways and tramways in China, Odessa, Turkey, Mexico and the Argentine (where they were also erecting whole cities and building sugar refineries and glass factories); drilling for oil in Baku and Rumania; pioneering in Egypt (where they created the town of Heliopolis); and organising public services in 76 cities throughout the world.

The British Empire was their most important export market, and already 18% of their industrial production crossed the Channel for the British market alone – not yet through the Channel tunnel, although there was already talk of it.

Although the concept of an Anglo-Belgian Chamber of Commerce had existed in a latent form for some time in the minds of the founders, it did not become fact until the international tension, engendered in 1890 over the Independent State of the Congo, moved them to action and formed an association with the object of defending Belgian colonial interests, in particular at the memorable meeting, called to discuss the situation, at the London Chamber of Commerce on 4th November of that year.

Those were also the days when, by claiming payment of Income Tax for the first time from the Chamber, our British friends officially acknowledged its existence! It had already received some recognition in the Press, in flattering articles in the “Précurseur d’Anvers” and the “Gazette de Charleroi” in 1897, and in the “Sheffield Weekly” in 1900.

 


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