Sunday 15 September 2019

Dutch PM rejects referendum calls: not in the Netherlands’ interest

Will the Union Jack disappear from the EU line-up? Photo: Depositphotos.com

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has told journalists that he understands the ‘we want our country back’ feeling which drove the British to vote to leave the European Union.

At the same time, however, progress on removing EU excesses is being made, he said. ‘The European parliament complains it does not have enough to do. I think that is fantastic,’ the prime minister said. ‘That means we have stopped with bringing in big new laws.

Speaking about calls from some campaigners in the Netherlands to organise a referendum on a Nexit, Rutte said: ‘That would have major consequences for the Netherlands, our stability and the recovery of our prosperity. I am absolutely against it. It would not be in the Dutch interest.’

Poll

Meanwhile, an online poll of 27,000 people for current affairs show EenVandaag showed 54% of the Dutch would like a referendum on EU membership and that 48% would vote in favour of leaving. Some 45% would vote in favour of the Netherlands remaining in the EU.

The poll, which was published on Sunday, was taken before the British vote, so does not reflect the outcome of the Brexit result.

The Netherlands has no provision in law to hold a referendum on leaving the EU. The current legislation, which allowed the referendum on the EU’s treaty with Ukraine, can only apply to new legislation and treaties.

Speed

Foreign minister Bert Koenders, who was at Friday’s meeting between the EU’s six founding countries, described the results of the British referendum as ‘clear’.

‘The result has to be dealt with fairly,’ he said. ‘And that has to happen as quickly as possible. We must not end up in a vacuum.’

The foreign minister said in an interview with the Volkskrant he is very concerned about the potential break-up of the United Kingdom because of the support for the EU in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

‘But the EU has to determine its priorities,’ he said. ‘First manage the divorce properly and then, if a country wants to join in, we will look at that.’

Koenders again reiterated the need for speed, rather than what he called the ‘dawdling’ suggested by Leave vote campaign leader Boris Johnson. ‘There is not time for that,’ he said. ‘People, companies, the financial markets – everyone wants clarity.’

Benefits

Koenders told British broadcaster Sky News that Britain’s benefits system is partly to blame for the defeat of the Remain campaign.

‘You have relatively low wages and at the same time people immediately get a lot of benefits,’ he told Sky. ‘That attracts a lot of migration. It has nothing to do with Europe. It has to do with your domestic rules and regulations.’

In the Netherlands just 3% of social security benefit claims are made by people from another EU country, the national statistics office CBS said last December.

Some 25,000 are claiming work-related unemployment benefit (ww), 15,000 have basic welfare benefits and nearly 13,000 some form of incapacity benefit (AO). By law, EU citizens have no rights to welfare benefits in the three months after they arrive in the Netherlands.

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