In the wake of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union last week, Wikistrat gathered views from its analysts on the effects “Brexit” would have — on Germany, Russia, Turkey and NATO.
I was asked to contribute a slide on the Netherlands, in which I argue that it may be among the countries that is hurt the most.
Economic interests are at stake. Dutch companies invest more in the United Kingdom than anywhere else. The British are the second-largest investor in the Netherlands, after the United States. Anglo-Dutch companies like Shell, Reed Elsevier and Unilever are major employers in the Netherlands. It remains to be seen how they will cope with a British withdrawal from the single market. The uncertainty is already being felt.
Politically, Brexit is disadvantageous to the Dutch as well. They advocated for British membership of what was then the European Economic Community from the start. Dutch leaders recognized the British would offer a counterweight to the Franco-German axis. The fear now is that the balance in Europe will shift to the more protectionist and federalist member states in the south. Italy and Spain have already suggested the solution is “more Europe”. The Dutch see it the other way around. They want the EU to take a step back.
As for domestic Dutch politics, the impact should not be overstated. Of course Geert Wilders is calling for an in-out referendum in the Netherlands as well, but nobody else is interested in that and polls suggest a majority would vote to stay in anyway. But the mainstream parties do recognize that anti-EU sentiment is more often an expression of general discontent than anything specific to do with the EU. In that sense, Britain’s referendum is alarming. It shows this discontent is wider spread than they assumed.
Click here to download the report from Wikistrat’s blog.