Referendum on EU/Ukraine treaty brought Eurosceptics out to voice their discontent but pro-EU voters stayed at home
The Dutch have said no in another EU referendum. Asked to vote on an EU treaty with Ukraine that paves the way for deeper ties, Dutch voters gave an overwhelmingly negative answer. Almost two-thirds of voters, 61%, rejected the EU-Ukraine association agreement, while only 38% supported it.
Although turnout was low, the vote has some worrying lessons for campaigners who want Britain to stay in the EU.
Ukraine was only a pretext for the Dutch Eurosceptic campaigners, who forced the referendum without caring much about the result. But the no vote is damaging for the EU’s relations with its war-torn eastern neighbour. Although the trade parts of the EU-Ukraine association are already in force, and 27 out of 28 EU governments have signed the treaty, the final conclusion is now hanging in the air.
The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, indicated on Wednesday night that his government would not ratify the treaty as planned. Ignoring the result could be toxic for his fragile coalition government, with elections due next year. The outcome is a huge embarrassment for the Netherlands, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency. Finding a way out of the impasse could take weeks.
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