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EU warned 'Netherlands could follow UK with Nexit' as Dutch PM raged at idea

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Brexit represented the first occasion a country has left the EU in its current form, sending shockwaves through Europe. The UK’s decision coincided with rising euroscepticism in some of the EU’s biggest member states, and sparked speculation over who could be next to leave the bloc. 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.

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”.

On the morning of the 2016 EU referendum in the UK, prominent Brexiteer Nigel Farage suggested that the Netherlands might be the next country to quit the “dying” EU.

He said: “We may well be close, perhaps, to a Nexit.”

However, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte scoffed at the idea, saying it would be “utterly irresponsible’ for the Netherlands to leave.

Mr Rutte has faced a eurosceptic movement himself in recent years due to the emergence of far-right politician Geert Wilders.

Mr Wilders has previously described the EU as “more or less dead” and competed against Mr Rutte in recent Dutch elections, failing to gain power.

Since Brexit in 2016, eurosceptic movements in Europe have retreated as polling shifts to a more favourable view of remaining in the EU.

Mr Wilder’s party has always been anti-EU since it was founded in 2004.

Stijn van Kessel, Lecturer in Politics at Loughborough University, wrote for the London School of Economics in 2017 that Mr Wilders abandoned calls to leave the EU.

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He said: “Dutch citizens’ support for a ‘Nexit’ is clearly limited and campaigning on a multifaceted nativist programme may be a better way for Wilders to expand his support base.”

Despite the Netherlands place in the EU rarely being threatened, Mr Rutte has applied pressure on Brussels and other member states in recent years.

This was seen as far back as 2013, when Mr Rutte made a startling demand.

Mr Rutte and his then-finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem said his governing coalition had agreed “it should be possible under mutual consideration to exit from the community arrangements (Schengen, eurozone, European Union).”

They added: “This requires in the case of the eurozone and Schengen a treaty change as the current EU treaty does not foresee this possibility.”

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More recently, Mr Rutte has been critical in debates over the EU Budget, and was a leading figure demanding that Hungary and Poland abide by a rule of law mechanism.

This sparked a dispute which turned hostile when the two countries vetoed the Budget.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban accused Mr Rutte of using “communist tactics” and of “hating” Hungary.

The Netherlands is preparing for an election this month after Mr Rutte’s government resigned in January over a childcare scandal.

More than 20,000 families were wrongly accused of fraud by the tax authority in the Netherlands, yet Mr Rutte is still expected to remain in power.

The errors had begun under a previous government, and Mr Rutte’s polling hasn’t suffered in the aftermath of the resignation.

Polls suggest his party is likely to again finish as the country’s largest and with more seats than it won in the previous 2017 election.



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