Dutch PM warns against copying Brexit 'chaos'

The Hague (AFP) –


Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warned the Netherlands on Monday against emulating the "chaos" and division of Britain's decision to leave the European Union.

"I compare the Netherlands to a fragile vase, held by its 17 million citizens," Rutte said in a full-page advert, printed in the popular daily tabloid Algemeen Dagblad.

In order to preserve this 'vase', "compromises often have to be made in which difficult problems are solved in a sensible way," he said.

But Rutte, who has been Dutch premier since 2010 and currently leads a shaky coalition government, said there are examples in society "where the vase has been dropped."

"Look at Great Britain. There, its politicians and its people have forgotten what they've reached together," Rutte said.

"Now they are caught up in chaos," he said.

Rutte was the first stop on British Prime Minister Theresa May's unsuccessful tour to seek assurances for a Brexit deal from EU leaders last week.

The Dutch premier was one of several leaders defending her afterwards at a summit in Brussels -- or at least in comments he made in English.

In Dutch, however he warned at the summit against any move to take the Netherlands out of the EU, saying 'If anyone in the Netherlands thinks Nexit is a good idea, look at England and see the enormous damage it does."

The Netherlands has been anxiously watching developments in Britain, a key trading partner and one-time ally on many European matters, as it prepares to leave the EU on March 29, 2019.

Rutte himself originally invited May's predecessor David Cameron to Amsterdam give the fateful speech leading to the 2016 referendum that led to Brexit, although it ended up being postponed and shifted to London.

Observers say Monday's advert is the start of Rutte's campaign for his Liberal VVD party in the run-up to European parliament and Dutch provincial elections next year.

Known for his upbeat character and his man-of-the-people habit of riding his bicycle to work, Rutte "wants to beat his opponents with positivity and optimism," the NOS public broadcaster said.

Rutte also warned about those creating division in the Netherlands -- compared them to "screaming football dads on sidelines".

He referred to recent demonstrations for and against Black Pete, or "Zwarte Piet", a blackface Christmas-time character accused of being a racist stereotype.

"People were so busy shouting for and against Zwarte Piet that they forgot about the children," for whom Rutte said the early December festival is organised.