There was this weird Reuters article about anti-expat sentiment in Amsterdam (that seemed more to be anti-tourist sentiment) a few weeks ago and now the Wall Street Journal has a story about anti-EU sentiment. Honestly, maybe people should just stop writing about the sentiment of the Dutch, because they all seem to be wildly off base.
It opens with this:
“The Netherlands was the front line in the European Union’s fightback against a euroskeptic populist rebellion in 2017.”
Except, it wasn’t. The Dutch election focused a lot more on health insurance premiums and elderly care than Europe. Where are the bajillion articles talking about how whether or not primary teachers salaries should be raised? The reality is, the overwhelming majority of Dutch political parties support staying in the EU (some with restrictions, read the party stances during the election here) and opposed a Brexit-like referendum. So much so the ruling coalition party killed the law allowing for such referendums last year.
Somewhere in the middle, this is buried:
“Of course, the Netherlands is still largely a pro-European country: 68% of Dutch citizens are broadly optimistic about the future of the EU, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey.”
That’s right. Nearly 70% of the country supports staying in the EU. Nearly all the major political parties support it. So why is this even a story?
Moreover, Dutch support for the EU has been on the rise. Basically a steady increase since 2013, including a majority who support the European Commission, the European Central Bank and even the European Parliament.
“Now Dutch businesses fear that they will face new barriers to trade with the U.K. while the EU itself risks becoming more protectionist. A successful Brexit could fuel demands in the Netherlands for Nexit.”
Dutch support for the EU spiked after Brexit. Turns out that unlike the Brits, the Dutch aren’t big on shooting themselves in the foot. Meanwhile the Dutch government has been turning itself into knots to attract all sorts of business from London to Amsterdam. The Dutch took one look at Brexit, rubbed their hands together, and immediately began ordering swimming pools to fill with all of their gold that they will swan dive, Scrooge McDuck-style into.
“But the charge that the government is scared of democracy is fueling support for a new euroskeptic party, the Forum for Democracy.”
It is true that both the PVV (led by Geert Wilders) and FvD (led by Thierry Baudet) support withdrawal from the EU. They are pretty vocal and blunt about their opposition, when they can actually remember to talk about the EU rather than ranting on about foreigners. And it’s also true that support for the FvD is on the rise. Meanwhile, support for the PVV is dropping, a fact conveniently absent from the WSJ article. If elections were held today, polls predict the FvD would take 12 seats (up from the 2 they actually took in March 2017). But the PVV would take 16, down from the 20 they actually got in March. Dutch people aren’t becoming more anti-EU. They are just shifting to the guy with better hair.
Oh, and if we go back a few more years, it gets even more interesting. In January 2016, the PVV held a (polled) high of 40 seats. FvD wasn’t even around, so it had 0 seats. That’s 40 anti-EU seats in parliament. Since then, in this same poll, support for the PVV has tanked, bringing it down to 14, while support for the FvD has skyrockets to 15. But that brings the total anti-EU party seats down to 29. FvD has stolen some of the PVV’s thunder but overall support for euro-skeptic, anti-immigration parties is down in the Netherlands.
Go claim Belgium is bellwether of the EU for a while instead.