Britain Can’t Count on Dutch for Reforms in Europe

When push comes to shove, the Netherlands will always back Germany over the United Kingdom.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands speaks with his British counterpart, David Cameron, at Chequers, England, February 21, 2014
Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands speaks with his British counterpart, David Cameron, at Chequers, England, February 21, 2014 (Rijksoverheid)

British prime minister David Cameron can’t depend on his Dutch allies to get reforms done in Europe, the Netherlands’ leading conservative weekly argues.

According to Elsevier, the Dutch will always support Germany over the United Kingdom when push comes to shove.

Shared priorities

The leaders of the two North Sea countries, Cameron and Mark Rutte, share priorities in Europe, from strengthening the single market to returning powers to member states.

When nationalists surged in May’s European Parliament elections, both argued it was a vote against ever-closer union.

“The European Union cannot just shrug off these results and carry on as before,” Cameron said at the time. “We need an approach that recognizes that Europe should concentrate on what matters, on growth and jobs, and not try to do so much.”

Rutte agreed. “The first thing we have to do is to formulate an answer,” one that “contains fewer rules and less fuss from Europe and focusing Europe on where it can add value to things.”

Germany first

But Elsevier points out that the Dutch have since given the British scant support.

They voted in favor of Jean-Claude Juncker, a European federalist, to head the European Commission, leaving Cameron nearly isolated in his opposition to the Luxembourger.

The Germans backed Juncker and the Netherlands wouldn’t jeopardize their relations with what is their most important trading partner.

Most recently, the Dutch, like the British, have complained about a rise in their contribution to the EU budget as a result of revised GDP figures. But they wouldn’t support the British in blocking the increase.

The Netherlands is also unlikely to endorse Cameron’s proposal to limit free labor migration in the EU.

Risk of Brexit

Cameron’s constant defeats make a British exit from the European Union more likely.

If he fails to bring about significant changes in Britain’s membership — keeping it out of political integration schemes and reducing European interference in the United Kingdom’s laws and regulations — a referendum, due in 2017, could produce a majority in favor of “Brexit”.

“The fact that the Netherlands keeps saying it wants the United Kingdom to remain a EU member state isn’t worth much,” according to Elsevier.

The Dutch may agree with what Cameron is saying but — unlike him — they can’t put their EU membership at risk for the sake of accomplishing reforms.

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