Friday, 16 Apr 2021

We miss you already! Isolated Netherlands has ‘lost ally in UK’ as Nexit calls intensify

Brexit means the Netherlands has 'lost an ally' says expert

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The UK finally severed all ties with the EU on New Years after successfully agreeing a post-Brexit trade deal following nearly a year of tense and often bitter negotiations. Both sides had been engaged in an 11-month transition period, but the expiry of that finally freed Britain from Brussels’ shackles around the customs union and single market. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has basked in the glory of Brexit, insisting the UK has now “taken back control” and will quickly flourish in its new-found freedom outside of the bloc.

Now as millions of voters head to the polls in the Netherlands this week, anti-EU sentiment in the country is growing, with the EU member state being tipped by many to be the next to follow the UK out of the bloc – a move Prime Minister Mark Rutte is keen to avoid.

The Euronews website has run an article that states: “With Britain, the Netherlands lost an ally with whom it has close cultural ties and whose views on trade and foreign policy largely divide the country.

“The Netherlands has lost a competitor who has thought and functioned as it did, says analyst Maria Demertzis of Bruegel.

“The Dutch looked west in everything they did. On the other hand, a voice with the British that was important for the Dutch in terms of European policy was silenced.

“All that remains, therefore, is the German-French axis that the EU needs for the progress.

“The Dutch therefore feared that they would no longer be heard in the future, but wanted to ensure precisely this.”

Maria Demertzis, from Brussels-based think-tank Bruegel, emphasised in an interview with Euronews how much the Dutch are already missing the huge influence from the UK.

She said: “The UK departure has really meant that the Dutch have lost an ally in the way that they think and operate.

“The Dutch always look West for the way they do business and for the way they engage.

“With the UK gone, a very important voice has gone in all matters European.

“There is now only a Franco-German agreement that is required in the EU for things to progress and the Dutch are worried that that will be all it takes, and others will not be heard, so they want to make sure that others are also listened to.”

The Netherlands is a key cog in the EU machine as according to Eurostat, was the bloc’s fifth-largest economy in 2019, accounting for 5.8 percent of its GDP, while also being one of the biggest contributors to the EU budget.

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But anti-EU sentiment has surged over recent months, with financial contributions and the lack of funds received in return fuelling more calls for Nexit and subsequent discontent towards Brussels.

This has culminated in an ugly spat between the Netherlands and several other EU member states over the budget and huge Coronavirus Recovery Fund.

Nationalism also appears to be growing at pace in the Netherlands, leaving the EU facing another monumental crisis, with Geert Wilders far-right Freedom Party (PVV) currently polling in second place for the upcoming election.

But Dharmendra Kanani, Director at the Brussels-based think tank Friends of Europe, has claimed Nexit fears are being completely blown out of proportion.

He told Euronews: “I think that’s just people in the Brussels bubble-making hay of something which is actually not real anymore.

“I don’t think it’s a live concern for communities across Europe.

“I do think that the greater issue here is how the populists and nationalists will potentially claim greater ground in domestic politics if governments don’t play their hand well effectively around the management of the finances and the public debt which is historic.”

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.

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