Mark Rutte told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday that he was both proud and disappointed about the Netherlands’ six month EU presidency.
He said the Netherlands has achieved ‘concrete results’ but that the Brexit referendum vote in June created a ‘shock wave’.
Even if a separation from Britain was resolved perfectly, he said, the problems would not be over.
‘It’s not only British voters who have doubts about European cooperation,’ he said. ‘In other member states too, including the Netherlands, there is widespread criticism and Euroscepticism.’
He said the way to combat these was to show what Europe could achieve: agreements with Turkey on migration, the fight against terror and the European internal market. But he added that the ‘debate should now be about less bureaucracy and regulation.’
In an interview with the Nieuwsuur television programme on Monday night, Rutte had strong criticism for Nigel Farage, former leader of the UKIP and a leading campaigner for Brexit, who has now resigned.
‘This man thinks he has played a great game, as though it isn’t about the interests of 65m people,’ said Rutte. ‘I think it’s terrible.’
He added, reports NOS public broadcaster, that he would be unhappy to lose the Brits ‘not so much because of the economy, but geopolitics. In this unstable world, the little Netherlands must collaborate with others. Great Britain was an ally in the EU, and now we have lost this.’
The Netherlands was EU president from the beginning of 2016 until the end of June, and Slovakia has now taken over.
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