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The Decline of the European Union: How the Exit of the Netherlands May Unfold

If all goes well, June 24th will be the date remembered in history as the beginning of the end for the monstrous-multinational European Union. That was, of course, the day Britain’s people voted to leave the bureaucracy of Brussels behind. Yet, more than two months after the vote, the United Kingdom remains alone in its exit preparations. But come early next year, they may have a companion at their side.

Their coming sidekick in the fight against the EU – if they are to have one – will unquestionably be the Dutch. This is thanks to the unique political landscape that is shaping up in the Netherlands, that is so unlike most other nations that remain in the Union. What’s the political shakeup that has the proponents of the EU worried? A single man, Geert Wilders, and his party the PVV (Partij voor de Vrijheid/Party for Freedom).

Wilders is now on the verge of such a historic victory, one that would have been thought a joke only a little over a decade ago. In 2005 he split from the center-right party the VVD (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie/People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy). He then sat as a one-man party in the national parliament. He left the VVD behind mainly over grievances with immigration, Islam, and membership in the EU. Yet, slowly, he picked up seats as his one-man party attracted more and more attention in the general elections of 2006 and 2010, and 2012. Now it sits as the 3rd largest party in the parliament and if opinion polling holds, they are on their way to winning a thin plurality of seats in the upcoming elections that are scheduled to be held no later than March of 2017.

If the PVV does win a plurality of seats, the fight against the EU is just beginning and nowhere near an end. The negations to form a governing coalition could end up in either of two ways.

The first would be with Wilders on top as the Prime Minister, able to fight for passage of the laws needed in order to make such a referendum legal under Dutch law. Yet, this could be stalled or even completely overcome by a united opposition of pro-EU parliamentarians.

The second likely outcome would be one where Wilders would try and avoid this by using the victory as a bargaining chip in which he promises leadership of the government to the party in second place (likely the center-right VVD) in exchange for the promise of the referendum.

Many, I’m sure, at this point are still in doubt if either maneuvers would be successful in gaining a referendum vote, let alone a successful vote to leave. Both parliament’s approval of a referendum and a successful vote of the people to leave, are completely practical.

First as for the parliament. Be reminded that the British parliament was at the time of the fight for the British referendum, and still remains, pro-EU. Yet, out of fear of future repercussions by an anti-EU base and the rise of UKIP, they gave their people the vote. The parliamentarians of the Netherlands will likely see the same threat, but instead of UKIP, it will be the PVV, they shall worry about come next election if they do not appease the demands now.

So, with the possibility of a referendum very likely, what are its actual chances of getting the vote needed to leave? Well, the Dutch people, while not wholly anti-EU, have been relatively skeptical of it for decades. In 2005, the same year Wilders broke from the VVD, the Dutch people overwhelmingly rejected the adoption of the EU Constitution by a referendum vote of 61% to 38%. Then again, more recently the Dutch have reaffirmed that their skepticism is still strong. Earlier this year the Dutch in another referendum vote of 61% to 38% rejected a EU/Ukraine treaty that would have expanded the Union’s influence on the continent and was backed by nearly all pro-EU Europeans. If a similar referendum style vote were to occur on leaving the EU, a 10% margin could either shift sides or not vote and at the end of the day “Nexiters” could still proclaim victory at the polls.

Voter turnout rates, if high enough, could sway the vote in favor of a remain victory. That is if the Dutch do a better job than the British of marketing an image of doom and gloom outside of the EU. Yet even higher turnout rates might not save them. Both of the referendums mentioned previously had the same percentages while voter turnout for the vote in 2016 sat near 30% and the vote in 2005 sat well above 60%.

So, overall, the future looks bright for those campaigning to bring down the multinational government. A single other victorious campaign to leave the EU could internally shake the EU so much it collapses under its own unmanageable weight. Or else it could inspire other movements across Europe, that after yet another victory see that leaving the EU is not a one nation fluke, but instead a historical exodus that is firmly within their reach.

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