June 16, 2016
Dutch eurosceptics join Leave campaign
The Dutch eurosceptic group GeenPeil has joined the Brexit campaign on the side of Nigel Farage, to return the help the UKIP leader gave them campaigning in the Netherlands before the April referendum on the EU association agreement with Ukraine. The thrust of the argument is to illustrate the undemocratic nature of the EU by means of the way the successful challenge to the Ukraine agreement has been ignored by the Dutch government. As we reported back then, Mark Rutte's government gave itself an indefinite amount of time to think about how best to interpret the referendum result, not wanting to press the point of ratification of the Ukraine agreement during the Dutch EU presidency, and also preferring to delay any action until after the Brexit referendum in the UK. In connection with this, we note a comment by Joris Luyendijk in the Guardian last week, where he reflects on the Dutch public's turn from one of the most progressive and forward-looking in the EU to what he calls a traumatised, angry and deeply confused nation. Dutch euroscepticism reflects a loss of faith in the elites, who appear incompetent and helpless. As he writes,
There was a time when mainstream Dutch politicians and opinion-makers would answer breezily that the EU was a work in progress and that successful integration would simply take a generation: why would the children of immigrants remain socially and culturally conservative if they could also be Dutch?
That self-confidence is gone and what will take its place is anyone’s guess. What seems certain is that the heady days of progressive optimism are not coming back.
But none of that is on offer from today's timid leadership, as illustrated by the Dutch government's lukewarm campaigning in the Ukraine referendum and the uncomfortable silence since. Meanwhile, Eurosceptic English media are carrying a poll by De Telegraaf showing a majority of the Dutch back Brexit.