Brexit: Geert Wilders ‘EU had no incentive to get good deal’
Brussels is currently embroiled in a bitter internal row over its botched handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Member states are struggling to get vaccinations, and in some cases nations such as the Czech Republic and Hungary have begged other countries for jabs. The EU opted to rollout the vaccine as a united bloc, but difficulties with supply and a slow move to give the green-light to some vaccines has caused deep divisions in Brussels.
It has sparked a rise in eurosceptic anger across the EU, which has only grown louder as nations look over at the UK’s successful handling of its vaccine programme.
Figures earlier this month showed that the UK was vaccinating at a rate of around 31.2 people per 100 citizens, with the EU lagging way behind
This pales into comparison with the EU, with 7.6 jabs administered per 100 people.
With anti-EU rhetoric building strength, leaders will be hoping to make their claims on the Union in upcoming elections, including over in the Netherlands, which heads to the polls next week.
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Ursula von der Leyen has come under increasing pressure
Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy currently holds a seven point lead over Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom in a poll of 4,500 by Peil.nl.
Mr Wilders is a staunch opponent of Brussels, and declared in the immediate aftermath of the UK’s decision to press ahead with Brexit that the Netherlands should follow the British lead.
He said that the British “liberation from the European Union is a huge leap”, adding: “Now it is our turn.”
The politician also celebrated the Leave campaign’s victory, writing on his personal website in 2016: “We want be in charge of our own country, our own money, our own borders, and our own immigration policy.
Geert Wilders is anti-EU and appears on the ballot in the Dutch election
“If I become Prime Minister, there will be a referendum in the Netherlands on leaving the European Union as well. Let the Dutch people decide.”
The Nexit predicament was assessed by University of Groningen researcher Simon Otjes, who wrote after the referendum that the result “was quite a shock for the Dutch government”.
In a blog for the London School of Economics, he said: “The Liberal Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, has already expressed his displeasure at the vote.
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Mark Rutte alongside Geert Wilders
“The reasons for this displeasure are obvious: the Dutch and the British share a common Atlantic orientation and a commitment to free trade.
“Therefore, the Dutch strongly favoured the entry of the UK into the European Economic Community in the 1970s to counterbalance the French and the Germans.”
He added: “In this sense, the British referendum on EU membership may not be the end of a set of referendums on EU issues.
“After the success of the eurosceptic side in this referendum and the previous Dutch referendum on the Ukraine-EU treaty, the eurosceptic forces in the Netherlands are likely to use the tool more often to obstruct EU integration.
Boris Johnson spearheaded the Leave campaign
According to a recent Dutch News report, Mr Wilders’ manifesto for the upcoming election includes a pledge to leave the EU, “scrap the public broadcasting system and use the Army to ‘regain the streets’ where necessary”.
It reported that his party, however, was only forecast to win between 19 and 23 seats in the 150 seat Parliament.
With Mr Rutte himself reluctant to have a referendum on the issue, some have drawn comparisons to the dilemma he faces with that of former Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mr Cameron famously called the referendum as anti-EU parties began to eat away at his Conservative Party vote.
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And Europe correspondent Caroline de Gruyter argued that the Dutch have been “sceptical about European integration” for a long time.
She said: “It is clear the Dutch feel better in Europe with the British on their side.
“And that problems they currently have are partly the result of Brexit.”
She explained: “Apart from a Protestant culture, they have much else in common with the British: their love of the sea, a sober outlook on life and a commercial disposition.
“Both are liberal, seafaring and trading nations that once had overseas empires used to striking out on their own.”