The Netherlands must prepare for a chaotic, no-deal Brexit, the Dutch parliament’s European affairs committee has said, in a strongly worded report blaming the stalled exit talks on Britain’s “unrealistic expectations” and “inconsistency”.
“What was long considered impossible is suddenly thinkable: a chaos scenario in which the UK abruptly leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 without an exit agreement, a transition period or a framework for future relations,” the committee said.
“The Netherlands must be ready for this. Government services such as customs and inspection agencies must be prepared. Roadmaps must be be ready for several economic sectors, notably transport, agriculture and fisheries.”
The report said a chaotic UK departure from the bloc – as opposed to a hard, but planned Brexit – would be “highly damaging to ... vital and vulnerable” business sectors in the Netherlands, currently Britain’s fourth-largest trading partner.
The rapporteurs said that after six rounds, Brexit talks were deadlocked because there had not been “sufficient progress across the board” on the key article 50 points: citizens’ rights, the Irish border and the financial settlement.
They pointed to “deficient preparation” on the UK side, saying the snap June election and “unrealistic Brexit expectations of a number of British politicians” had taken a heavy toll on “the consistency and coherence of the British government’s negotiating positions”.
The report recommended that to avoid a chaotic exit, negotiations must be speeded up or the two-year deadline extended. It also called for urgent European legal advice on what would happen if the European parliament vetoed an exit deal, or the European council failed to reach a majority.
On citizens’ rights, it said the uncertainty of EU citizens in the UK and British nationals on the continent was fast becoming acute. “These people have a right to clarity and future perspectives and really cannot wait much longer to know what their rights will be after Brexit,” it said.
On the Irish question, neither of the two possible solutions – a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, or between Northern Ireland and Britain – looked feasible, so “both sides talk of ‘imaginative solutions’, but nothing concrete”, it said.
The committee’s major concern, however, was the financial settlement. “For a large part of the British population,” it said, “any divorce payment will be too much”. The EU27 cannot give way either, since “too great a reduction in the divorce bill ... would reward the British for bad behaviour”.
For that reason, the report’s authors feared that “sooner or later, talks will break down” over the financial settlement, making a chaotic Brexit more likely and leading to a level of uncertainty and instability the Dutch “cannot afford to underestimate”.
Rabobank, a leading Dutch bank, estimated last month that a no-deal Brexit could knock 4.25% off the Netherlands’ GDP – and up to 18% off the UK’s – by 2030. Even a soft Brexit with a comprehensive free trade deal between the UK and the EU could hit Dutch GDP by 3%, the bank said.
In the first three quarters of this year, the UK imported Dutch goods and services worth £29bn and exported £15.5bn. Europe’s largest port, Rotterdam, handles more than 54m tonnes of cargo a year either heading to or coming from Britain, over 11% of its total imports and exports.
This article was written by Jon Henley European affairs correspondent, for theguardian.com on Thursday 16th November 2017 14.51 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010