The weakest European leader (which is saying something), Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, has lashed out at Great Britain over its Brexit negotiations.
The man whose party is losing big in current polls with a general election coming up in March said, while speaking in Davos, that Britain will pay a “huge price” if it prioritizes curbs on immigration over (participating in) the single European market:
He said May’s announcement on Tuesday that Britain would leave the single market to be able to limit the number of people arriving from Europe at least showed she had “faced up to reality”.
But Rutte said the kind of Brexit deal the prime minister hoped to get would hit Britain’s economy hard. He said the UK was “making a choice … and paying a huge price because the economic growth rate of the UK will be impacted negatively by the fact that it will leave the biggest market in the world.”
Although Rutte clearly meant his statement as a threat, Brexit supporters are anything but impressed.
For example, UKIP Member of the European Parliament Roger Helmer tweeted the following earlier today in response to Rutte’s criticism:
I think Dutch PM Rutte’s warnings on Brexit were intended mainly for his domestic constituency. Geert Wilders might take a different view.
— Roger Helmer (@RogerHelmerMEP) January 20, 2017
As PJ Media reported late last year, Geert Wilders’ PVV is currently leading in the polls. If Wilders wins the elections, the chances of Rutte returning as prime minister are relatively small because the largest party in the Dutch parliament generally delivers the prime minister. In this particular case, that would make Wilders (not Rutte) the odds-on favorite.
Be that as it may, Rutte’s threat to Britain is clearly a sign that the upcoming Brexit continues to trouble the European elites. More than anything else, they fear that a successful move by Britain out of the EU will inspire eurosceptic movements in other EU member states to launch a major effort at their own exit.
In the Netherlands, for instance, Geert Wilders’ PVV and the new Forum for Democracy (FvD) have already made a Nexit (Netherlands exit) a centerpiece of their respective campaigns. Rutte wants to convince Dutch voters that supporting such a move would cause tremendous problems for the Dutch economy, which is why he’s now threatening Britain with all kinds of retaliation efforts.
Sadly for Rutte, Brits don’t seem to be particularly upset by his threats. After all, more than most, they know that Rutte’s power is extremely limited. He is the prime minister of a country that has little to say in Europe, and that routinely follows Germany’s lead no matter what German Chancellor Angela Merkel does. If she ends up deciding that it’s in Germany’s interests to stay friends with Britain — which it is — Rutte will likely follow. Small wonder, then, that the aforementioned Roger Helmer can’t quite get upset. There’s no reason to; it’s all posturing.
Britain can demand its sovereignty over its borders back, and there is nothing that Rutte can do about it. If anyone is irrelevant in Europe, it’s him. And yes, I’m writing that as a Dutchman myself.