Dutch PM Changes Tone, Hails Strong UK-Netherlands Links After Brexit

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By Kieran Corcoran | 3:26 am, August 10, 2016

The Prime Minister of the Netherlands has talked up the strengths of UK-Dutch relations in the wake of the Brexit vote – a sharp departure from previous warnings during the referendum campaign.

Mark Rutte affirmed the “countless ties” between the neighbouring nations, and looked forward to a future of “mutual co-operation”, despite the UK’s pending departure from the European Union.

He made no mention of his own stern anti-Brexit stance, which led him to warn of a “race to the bottom”, and regulatory retaliation if the British people took back powers they had ceded to Brussels.

By contrast, in a Facebook post this week Rutte spoke warmly of Anglo-Dutch relations in a message recounting a recent phonecall with British PM Theresa May.

He said the two agreed there were “big consequences”, including economic, to the Brexit vote, but quickly moved on to the enduring bond between the two powers.

He said: “In the first place there is our own relationship with the United Kingdom.

“It was good, is good, and continues to be good, as I assured May. There are countless ties between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom – historical, cultural and economic.

“Both of our societies and economies benefit from mutual cooperation.”

London served as the seat of the exiled Dutch government during the Second World War, when the Nazis overran most of Europe.

Even further back, the British royal family claims descent from William of Orange, a Dutch noble who took the English throne from James II in the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Rutte’s statement comes barely two months after he intervened in the referendum debate on the side of the Remain campaign.

Speaking on June 1 – a few weeks before polls opened – he described Brexit as “exactly what you don’t want”, and said reshaping the UK’s immigration system would lead to “an inevitable, unavoidable race to the bottom”, with the EU throwing up barriers in response.

In the intervening weeks the warning appears to have reversed his affiliations – saving his ire for the EU.

At the end of the post, he told the Dutch people that “business as usual” in Brussels could not continue, and that the bloc must work in future to maintain its support.