UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage is in Amsterdam in the Netherlands today to help the country’s Eurosceptics campaign in a referendum on the European Union scheduled for Wednesday.
The referendum, which isn’t about EU membership, but rather, an EU ‘association agreement’ with Ukraine, is being treated as a harbinger for how the British referendum result may end up if the ‘Out’ or ‘Leave’ campaigns manage to capitalise on the rising eurosceptic sentiment across Europe.
The referendum is only the second in the country’s recent history, and will ask members of the Dutch public if they support the EU’s 2014 association agreement with Ukraine – a document widely believed by eurosceptics to have provoked Russian action against EU expansionism.
Three non-governmental groups are largely responsible for the 6 April referendum.
As reported on Breitbart London, the GeenStijl blog gathered nearly half a million signatures in favour of having a popular vote on the issue last year.
“We want the EU to stop in its tracks and think for a minute and first solve the democratic shortcomings” said Bart Nijman, founder of the campaigning arm of GeenStijl, according to the Financial Times.
While Wednesday’s vote is technically non-binding, most political parties in the Netherlands have said that they will abide by the result, meaning that the country’s Prime Minister Mark Rutte – a good person friend of Britain’s PM David Cameron – may have to work to reverse the implementation of the agreement in his country.
A poll by Maurice De Hond on Sunday forecast that 66 percent of people certain to vote would back ‘No’, with only 25 percent in favour, with turnout likely to be decisive in shaping the final result. Pollsters TNS Nipo have forecast turnout of 32 percent, just above the 30 percent threshold that is needed for the referendum to be valid.
“Dutch opinion is divided 50-50,” pro-EU activist Bogdan Globa told the Kyiv Post in March, “But it’s more likely that the Dutch will say ‘no’ to Ukraine. Too many of them are still afraid of the war in the east of Ukraine. They also think Ukraine could be another Greece.”
Global Britain director Brian Monteith explained this weekend in the Scotsman newspaper: “While on paper the Dutch referendum is about some in the Netherlands not wanting to finance Ukraine, or be responsible for migrants from there when they are granted visa free travel, in reality it puts the issue of the European Union on the table and is being seen by many in the country as a referendum on the Dutch attitude towards the EU.
He adds: “The European Union’s association agreement with Ukraine, negotiated between 2008 and 2012, is more than just a free trade deal; were it only that then the break down in relations between the Ukraine and Russia would probably have been avoided.
“Instead it involves the EU in the reform of Ukrainian institutions and laws is all about paving the way for the Ukraine to become a full member of the EU.
“It introduces wholly unnecessary military links with the European Union by establishing military dialogue, technological co-operation and the possibility of joint participation in EU missions.
“It naturally includes visa free travel to the EU that would open the door to Ukraine’s 44 million people in addition to the visa free travel recently granted to Turkey’s 78 million inhabitants.”
The Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, is clearly alarmed by the Eurosceptic feeling in the Netherlands, telling a Washington, D.C. meeting last week: “The real purpose for the internal Dutch discussion is about the future of the European Union and internal political clashes… I think this is very dangerous for a country … to become the victim of this discussion. This is not a timely referendum.”
“Most people in the UK don’t even know it’s happening, and although it’s on a technical point, if the Dutch vote decisively in a ‘no’ direction, it will have an impact on the UK referendum,” Farage told The Sunday Times.
Mr. Farage will campaign with the Voor Nederlands team which partners with UKIP in the European Parliament. It is thought that he will intentionally avoid campaigning with the Party for Freedom led by anti-Islamisation firebrand Geert Wilders. According to EuObserver, Mr. Farage has said a Dutch No “will help in Britain too”.