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Tide of Dutch public opinion on ‘Nexit’ vote reverses

Majority of voters in the Netherlands now oppose referendum on EU membership

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, whose government wants to keep the Netherlands’ trading position at the heart of the EU. Photograph: Max Rossi/Reuters

A new poll in the Netherlands shows a narrow majority opposed to a referendum on EU membership that could lead to a Dutch withdrawal or “Nexit” – the opposite of a survey two months ago which showed a majority in favour of an in-out vote.

The apparent confusion comes against the background of widespread anger at Brussels for failing to control the influx of migrants from the Middle East – anger which has seen Geert Wilders’s anti-immigrant Freedom Party become the most popular party in the Netherlands.

The latest poll is good news for Liberal prime minister Mark Rutte and his junior coalition partners, Labour, who are opposed to a vote on the grounds that it would play havoc with the Netherlands’ trading position at the heart of the community, next door to Germany.

The Ipsos poll shows 54 per cent of those surveyed are against a referendum like the one being held in Britain on June 23rd, with 46 per cent in favour.

Asked how they would vote if a referendum were to go ahead, 64 per cent said they would opt to remain in the EU.

By contrast, a poll in February by Dutch pollsters Maurice de Hond found 53 per cent in favour of an in-out referendum, with 44 per cent against.

Margin

In the case of a vote, the margin between the sides was much narrower, with 44 per cent in favour of remaining and 43 per cent against.

Although the polls themselves give no indication as to why the electoral mood has changed, there is no doubt that the divisiveness of the UK campaign, both domestically and across the EU, has been clear to the Dutch.

British prime minister David Cameron’s demand for special status on the issue of refugees had led to “a lot of bad blood” with France and the countries of Eastern Europe which was still complicating how and where to resettle even the most deserving cases, said Liberal MP Anne Mulder.

Christian Democratic Party leader Sybrand Buma agreed that European solidarity had been damaged by Britain’s decision to “act tough”, warning: “We just can’t have this every year with one or other of the 28 countries.”

Anger too at the aftermath of the Netherlands’ rejection last month of the EU-Ukraine association agreement is fuelling the EU in-out referendum debate.

Although more than 60 per cent of voters opposed the agreement, MPs subsequently voted 75-71 to retain it – leading to claims that the electorate had been sidelined by parliament.