- In long-term, says “we are all better off” if U.K. remains
- Dutch prime minister exchanges text messages with Cameron
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he’s “convinced” that British voters will back away from a vote to leave the European Union because the economic and geopolitical case to stay is overwhelming.
Rutte, speaking in an interview on Monday, said the Netherlands would “no doubt” benefit from the exodus of financial services from the City of London that he sees in the event of a vote to quit the EU in the June 23 referendum. But the former Unilever executive said he’d rather pass up that opportunity and have the U.K. stay in the 28-nation bloc.
“I want Britain to stay and London to flourish and I think that London and Amsterdam can exist next to each other,” said Rutte, 49, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency until July 1. “Obviously it would help Amsterdam in the short term, maybe. But in the longer term, we are all better off with Britain staying as a member.”
Rutte, who said he exchanges text messages with Prime Minister David Cameron, said a shared seafaring heritage gives the Netherlands and the U.K. a similar outlook on free trade and efforts to deepen the single market. As a “certified Anglophile," he said all his knowledge of the U.K. tells him that voters will recognize it’s in their own interest and in the interest of European stability to remain part of a “strong common market.”
The Dutch premier’s confidence belies a string of polls that suggest momentum is with the "Leave" side going into the last full week of campaigning. The pound is the worst performer among Group of 10 peers as investors weigh the risk of a so-called Brexit.
“I have seen many predictions, I’ve seen polls that are all counting on the result that they will leave,” said Rutte, who has been prime minister since 2010. “It makes absolutely no sense and therefore I count on the collective wisdom of the Brits, and I’ve so far never been disappointed.”
Rutte, whose Liberal Party-led coalition is losing ground to the EU-skeptic, anti-Islam Freedom Party of Geert Wilders ahead of elections next spring, said there is also criticism in the Netherlands of “the blah-blah-blah in Brussels” and a perceived lack of decision-making. The “overarching majority” is still in favor of membership because, like the U.K., it is a “trade-oriented nation, open, looking to the outward world, used to sailing the oceans.”
There is momentum for positive achievements, he said, citing efforts to deepen the single market and add another trillion euros to the European economy. If the common market didn’t exist, “we would reinvent it,” he said.
A year from now, “I am absolutely convinced that the EU will still be around,” he said. “I am convinced the U.K. will be sitting at that table and not negotiating an exit, but being there to stay.”