EU referendum: Will the Dutch referendum impact on the UK's EU vote?

 
James Nickerson
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NETHERLANDS-BRITAIN-UKRAINE-REFERENDUM
Farage has said the vote will have an impact on the EU referendum (Source: Getty)

After more than 450,000 people signed a petition, the Netherlands will today turn up to the polls in a referendum of their own on the EU-Ukraine deal.

Just weeks before the UK's referendum, the vote on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement has the potential to send shockwaves through Europe.

Indeed, if the Netherlands votes against the agreement in the referendum, the result could be a "continental crisis" with the EU, according to the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The pact on which the Dutch will vote aims to deepen economic and political ties with the Ukraine, and has already been ratified by the EU's other 27 member states.

The vote is non-binding, so a "no" vote would not force the government into a veto, but would put Prime Minister Mark Rutte in a difficult position, especially as his government currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

Read more: HMRC is going to reveal EU migrant numbers before the vote

And while not about the Netherlands' membership of the EU, it comes at a time of growing euroscepticism across the EU, with speculation that a "no" vote could play to the advantage of populist parties, particularly in the UK.

The premise is that the referendum in the Netherlands is about more than the Ukraine to the Dutch, who instead view it as a referendum about whether they want more or less Europe, and is a test of euroscptic sentiment before the UK's referendum.

"This referendum is not just about the EU's deal with Ukraine and their never ending expansionist tendencies," UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said.

"It is a bigger vote than that. It is the opportunity for the Dutch people to have their say on the European Union itself and I hope that if the No campaign wins, that they will not be ignored as they were when they rejected the EU Constitution in 2005.

"A "no" vote on Wednesday will have an effect on the UK result on 23 June," he added, indicating that it could spur on support for a Leave vote.

Read more: EU vote hinges on which side can get higher turnout

However, Professor John Curtice, president of the British Polling Council, has questioned whether it will have any impact.

"It's not obvious how it plays into the British referendum," he said. "You can spin it both ways. You can say it goes to show you can cock a snook at the Brussels bureaucrats or you can say this goes to prove the tide towards further integration in the EU has stopped and therefore it would be safer for the British to stay in."

But, he adds, "if the Dutch vote Yes will anybody care? I'm struggling to see why it would make much of a difference".

Pro-In campaign Britain Stronger in Europe also told us that it is not worried about the result as the UK referendum is a completely separate issue, and not related to the outcome of tomorrow's vote.

"The referendum we are having is not about the Netherlands; it’s about Britain. Farage is so keen to talk about the Dutch referendum because he has no answers on how we could retain free access to our largest export market if we left Europe," said James McGrory, the campaign's chief spokesman.

Still, the risk to Europe remains present. Analysts at Barclays even flagged the risk to the euro from the vote.

"The Dutch referendum on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement may weigh on the euro by highlighting growing European political risk related to the UK’s EU referendum," Barclays' Hamish Pepper wrote.

"Despite the recent softening of UK data, the euro is too expensive relative to sterling given that the EU faces greater uncertainty as the UK referendum provides a platform for protest parties to push for their own membership referenda."

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