EU won't make major changes to Brexit plan, says Dutch foreign minister

European Union countries will not be prepared to make 'major changes' to British prime minister Theresa May's Brexit deal to give her a plan B following Tuesday night's historic no vote, Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said on Tuesday evening. Speaking on television chat show Jinek, Blok said that Britain and the EU have struck 'the right balance' with the deal agreed last year. No last-minute concessions are going to be forthcoming from the EU, Blok said, adding that 'this is a strategy doomed to defeat.' May now has until Monday to come up with a new plan and 'I hope this is a good one,' Blok said. Britain is one of the Netherlands' most important trading partners and many Dutch people live in the UK and Brits in the Netherlands, he pointed out. Prime minister Mark Rutte said on Twitter that despite the setback, it does not mean Europe is in a no-deal situation. 'The next step is up to the UK,' Rutte said. I regret, yet respect the result of the vote in #HouseofCommons on current #Brexit deal. NL & EU are still behind the agreement, but will keep preparing for all scenarios. Despite this setback, it does not mean we are in a no-deal situation. The next step is up to the UK. — Mark Rutte (@MinPres) January 15, 2019 Dutch members of the European parliament have also expressed their disappointment in Tuesday evening's no vote, which May lost by 230 votes. 'My feeling is that we are right back at the beginning again,' GroenLinks MEP Bas Eickhout told reporters in Strasbourg. The British, he said, should be given a new opportunity to make their support for Brexit known, either via a second referendum or a general election, he said. Christian Democrat MEP Esther de Lange said she would like to know 'exactly what the British want'. Bad news Dutch finance minister Wopke Hoekstra said on Twitter that Brexit is bad news in 'economic, financial and geographic terms' whatever happens next. The Dutch cabinet's strategy remains working together with the rest of Europe to ensure as soft a Brexit as possible but 'prepare for the worst'. In alle gevallen is #Brexit voor NL en Europa slecht nieuws. Economisch, financieel en geopolitiek. Insteek kabinet is steeds geweest: met rest v Europa inzetten op een zo soft mogelijke Brexit, maar prepare for the worst. Ondernemers, bereid je goed voor: — Wopke Hoekstra (@WBHoekstra) January 15, 2019 The Financieele Dagblad outlined some of the issues which still need to be solved when Britain leaves the EU. Gas and electricity networks between the two countries need to undergo technical adaptations and the gas fields need to be divided up, the paper said. Diplomas and academic qualifications will not longer be automatically recognised and doctors will have to prove that they meet the appropriate professional and language standards, the paper said. Students British students who want to start a new degree in the Netherlands in the 2019-20 academic year will be treated as third country students and that will have an impact on fees and grants. In addition, academics coming to the Netherlands for long-term research projects after March 30 will need a residency permit to do so. The Dutch customs department is currently recruiting 1,000 new officials but only 300 will be ready for duty by March 30, the paper said.  More >

PVV MP accused of abusing ex wife

The ex-wife of PVV parliamentarian Dion Graus has made a police complaint against him, alleging that he hit her on one occasion and made her have sex with his bodyguards, the Telegraaf said on Wednesday. Graus, who has represented the anti-immigration party in parliament for 12 years, has denied the allegations. He told the paper his former partner is 'confused' and unable to deal with their divorce. The two separated last summer. The Telegraaf says ex-wife Joyce worked for the PVV in parliament for free for years but has now been placed on the payroll. She told the paper that Graus had forced her to have sex with his private bodyguards 'to pay them' and that he had been abusive both mentally and physically. Graus faced claims that he had beaten up another wife early into his political career. No formal charges were made against him, although the public prosecution department concluded later there had been sufficient evidence against him. Party leader Geert Wilders said that Graus had strenuously denied all the allegations against him. 'Without evidence to the contrary, I can do nothing but assume this is the case,' he said.  More >

Doctor faces jail for abusing young girls

A gavel in a courtroom. A family practitioner from Leiden faces six years in jail, followed by compulsory psychiatric treatment, for abusing seven young patients, his daughter and three of her friends. The public prosecution department told judges in The Hague on Wednesday that the man had abused the girls, all of whom were minors, and secretly filmed them at home and at his surgeries in Schiedam and Amstelveen. He should also be banned from practising as a doctor for five years - the longest ban which can be applied - the prosecutor said. Maarten B denies abusing the girls at his surgery, saying that his actions were in line with a careful medical examination. He also claimed to hardly remember abusing his daughter and filming her and her friends. He denies distributing pornography and told the court the 1,200 photos of naked girls on his computer were a bi-product of downloading ordinary films. At one point, he was thrown into a pond by an angry father when he was caught filming up a girl's skirt at the Madurodam miniature village in The Hague, the AD said in its report on the case.  More >

Locals want help Rutte to combat pollution

The inhabitants of the seaside village of Wijk aan Zee have taken out a full page advert in the Volkskrant calling on prime minister Mark Rutte to take action to stop the pollution from companies Tata Steel and Harsco in nearby IJmuiden, broadcaster NOS reports. In the ad, action group IJmondig claims there is 'a serious environmental problem and our local and regional authorities are incapable of protecting us from one of the two biggest CO2 producers in the country.’ ‘We are finding black graphite dust on our sleeping childrens’ duvets (..). A rainbow of chemical substances can be found on our sinks, window sills, dining tables and cars. Sometimes it’s white silicone fixative, often graphite and sometimes a brown substance or a grey sticky one,’ the ad goes on to say. The graphite comes from Harsco Metals, which processes slag, a residual by-product of steel on the Tata site. In October last year Tata and Harsco announced they would be working together to solve the problem but said 'it would take time because of design and permit procedures'. Among the health problems cited by the group are lung problems, headaches, dizziness and nausea and lack of concentration. Tata Steel was given a subsidy of €35m by the Dutch government to build a new type of smelter with lower CO2 emissions but, IJmondig points out, it will take a long time to develop and will also be built first at a Tata site in India. According to the group, the volume of emissions in the area far exceed the legally permitted amount. ‘A proper Dutch politician would bang his fist on the table and cry STOP!,’ the ad reads. IJmondig has invited Rutte to come to the seaside town for coffee ‘or a glass of jenever once he has seen the photographs of the pollution’.  More >

Yellow vest death: 'lorry was attacked'

The Dutch lorry driver suspected of killing a yellow vest demonstrator in Belgium last week claims to have been attacked by ’10 to 20 men in camouflage gear’, his lawyer has told local broadcaster 1 Limburg. The driver, who has turned himself into Belgian police, says he did not see any yellow vests during the incident, which took place last Friday. The man, who comes from Landgraaf in Limburg, has not been taken into custody but is getting protection because of fears he could be the subject of revenge attacks, lawyer Richard Wagemans said. The driver claims to have been unaware he had hit anyone until contacted by police at the weekend, Wagemans said. Demonstrators in yellow vests blocked the motorway from Liege to Maastricht last week, stopping lorries but allowing private vehicles to go through. According to earlier reports, the Dutch lorry refused to stop and the 50-year-old demonstrator died at the scene of the protest. Other reports suggest that the lorry's windscreen was smashed by demonstrators before the fatal accident happened.  More >

Sjinkie Kneght 'back on ice next season'

Dutch short track speed skater Sjinkie Knegt, who was hospitalised last week with severe burns after an accident, has been released from intensive care and hopes to compete again next season. 'Sjinkie is going all out to be back on the ice next season,' his manager Dennis Klaster told the Telegraaf. 'He has not lost his fighting spirit.' Meanwhile coach Jeroen Otten told a television sports show on Monday that the skater has made major strides. 'We are going to a training camp abroad in May and he says that he will be part of the pack,' Otten said. Knegt suffered burns to his face, chest, legs and feet in the accident at his home in the Frisian village of Bantega last Thursday. Knegt is the most successful Dutch short track skater ever. He was world champion in 2015 and took the European titles in 2012, 2105 and 2018.  More >