‘Now it is our turn’ Dutch election lifts lid on calls to leave EU – Netherlands misses UK
Brexit 'is not the end' of break-up says Wilders in 2019
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The departure of the UK from the EU has left the Netherlands without a key, like-minded partner in Brussels, sparking a debate on whether the Dutch should follow Britons outside the bloc.
Dutch voters have been heading to the polls since Monday to elect their next Prime Minister.
Incumbent Mark Rutte is expected to win with 21-26 percent of the vote, compared with 11-16 percent for its closest rival, Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam Freedom Party, which leads the parliamentary opposition.
But as Mr Wilders gains increasing support in the country, a question over the Dutch’s feelings about the EU is also growing.
Maria Demertzis, from think-tank Bruegel told Euronews: “The UK departure has really meant that the Dutch have lost an ally in the way they think and operate.
“The Dutch always look West for the way they do business and for the way they engage.”
She added: “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.”
In the wake of the EU Referendum vote in 2016, Mr Wilders took to Twitter to congratulate Britons and demand a referendum vote in the Netherlands.
He wrote: “Hurrah for the British! Now it is our turn. Time for Dutch referendum”.
In fact, he was once considered such an enemy of the EU, the BBC launched a documentary entitled ‘Geert Wilders: Europe’s Most Dangerous Man?’.
In 2017, Dutch pollster Maurice de Hond undertook a survey in which 56 percent of Dutch people were in favour of leaving the EU if there was a referendum tomorrow.
This led to Robert Oulds, Director of the think tank Bruges Group, warning that the Netherlands could leave the EU next.
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He said: “Across the continent of Europe and beyond people want to take back control of their lives.
“A concerted campaign for Nexit, along the lines that we saw in the UK, can overtime, just like it did in Britain, move the Netherlands towards the exit.
“We will welcome our allies the Dutch people in a new post-EU Europe”.
Since Brexit in 2016, eurosceptic movements in Europe have retreated as polling shifts to a more favourable view of remaining in the EU.
Despite the Netherlands place in the EU rarely being threatened, Mr Rutte has applied pressure on Brussels and other member states in recent years.
Just like in the UK over the years, financial contributions to the EU and lack of funds received by the bloc in return have exacerbated the argument for leaving the union in the Netherlands.
Last year, a bitter row between the Dutch and the EU sparked over the bloc’s budget and the Recovery Fund.
Speculations over the possibility of a Nexit soared when the Hague, together with Austria, Sweden and Denmark, were accused by EU partners of being too frugal and uncompromising.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban accused Mr Rutte of using “communist tactics” and of “hating” Hungary.
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