Belgium–United Kingdom relations
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Belgium established its independence in the revolution of 1830. Like the other European Great Powers, Britain was slow to recognise the new state. Even the election of Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, former son-in-law of Britain's King George IV and uncle to the future Queen Victoria, as Belgium's King failed to win diplomatic recognition from London. Belgium's emergence had caused the break-up of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, one of several buffer states established after the end of the Napoleonic Wars as a check against future French expansion, and London feared this newly formed nation would be unable to survive hostile expansion by its neighbours. A British-organised European Congress produced the Treaty of London of 1839, whereby the Great Powers (and the Netherlands) all formally recognised the independence of Belgium, and (at Britain's insistence) guaranteed its neutrality.
At the Berlin Conference (1884), Britain had recognised the Congo Free State as the personal domain of Belgium's Kings. Britain was subsequently to become a centre for opposition to Leopold II's personal rule in the territory through organisations such as the Congo Reform Association. At one point, Britain even demanded that the 14 signatories to the Berlin Conference meet again to discuss the situation. In 1908, Belgium's parliament took control of the Congo, which became a conventional European colony.
Those guarantees of neutrality of 1839 failed to prevent the invasion of Belgium by Germany in 1914, leading Britain to enter the First World War. British troops would continue fighting in Belgium throughout the course of the war (see Western Front (World War I)). During World War II, the Belgian government in exile based itself in London.
Historically, the south eastern UK and the area that is now Belgium has evidence of trade since the 1st century and wool export from UK to cloth imports in the 10th Century County of Flanders. Flemish bricks were used on work to the Tower of London in 1278. Today as much of 7.8% of Belgium exports are to the UK. with just over 5% of Belgium's imports, over 12 Million Euros coming from the UK. Belgium is the UK’s sixth-largest export market, worth £10 billion a year. The UK is Belgium’s fourth-largest export market with two-way trade worth in the region of £22 billion, of which £2 billion is in services. The Golden Bridge Awards were established in 2012 for UK export success in Belgium and recognising the importance of a close-by market.
Today, there are roughly 30,000 British people living in Belgium, and 30,000 Belgians living in the UK. In 2014 the UK government announced £5 million for the restoration of First World War graves in Flanders
- Belgium Country Profile, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
- British Iron Age