Amsterdam – The 2016 referendum on Ukraine was very similar [to the UK’s], but much less consequential … It was intended as a popularity poll on the EU but because the Ukraine Association Treaty was the only opportunity to have the referendum, that became the debate. And people that were able to dominate the debate said ‘the rules of this debate are that we’re going to talk about Ukraine and not about the EU more generally’, so it was sort of a fake referendum.
So a lot of people refused to participate… they didn’t like the way it was being framed by either side, the Eurosceptics or pro-European voices. Only a third of the people showed up, and the Eurosceptic left signed against the Association Treaty so it’s not a one-dimensional right wing victory, even though the Conservative voices managed to dominate the opposition vote.
In the Netherlands you have the political center which is mostly pro-EU and you have the right-wing and left-wing flanks, and there is a veritable crisis for the political middle, which is benefitting the right much more than the left…. Nigel Farage is an important reference point, and one of the leading figures in the Dutch referendum was the Conservative intellectual Thierry Baudet, who is a pupil of Roger Scruton, the British Conservative philosopher… so those links are very significant.
Now Geert Wilders [leader of the populist right PVV], according to several distinct polls, has virtually the biggest party in the Netherlands. This feeling of a threat from the right, it can be felt daily. In that sense, a Brexit would of course be a monumentally cataclysmic event, leading to huge developments in the Netherlands.