The Brexit monster first appeared in this tweet from Foreign Minister Stef Blok, who shared an image on Thursday that showed the blue figure lying on his desk in his office in The Hague. “Don’t let Brexit get — or lie — in your way,” he wrote.
Blok included a link to a website where Dutch consumers and companies could see some of the potential impact of Brexit on businesses. One part of the website allows people to “scan” their business interests to estimate the potential impact of Brexit. “Brexit can affect anyone, even if you do not suspect in the first instance,” that page reads.
The Netherlands is Britain’s main trading partner on mainland Europe, and the Dutch government has been preparing for months for the country to leave the European Union — and in particular, the risk of Britain crashing out of the body in a “no deal” Brexit on March 29 that could see it revert to World Trade Organization rules on its borders.
One study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimated that Dutch exports to Britain could fall by 17 percent if Brexit happens without a deal. However, only 24 percent of Dutch entrepreneurs feel that they are well prepared for Brexit, according to a Dutch Chamber of Commerce survey undertaken in December.
The Brexit monster appeared as the head of the Dutch government made stark warnings about the impact that Brexit would have not only on the Netherlands, but also on the broader world.
In an interview with the Financial Times that was published on Thursday, Rutte said that so far, the impact on the Netherlands was hard to assess. He told the London-based publication that many countries based in Britain were moving their offices to the Netherlands. “We can’t prevent them coming here,” he said.
But Rutte also admitted that Brexit’s impact would ultimately be negative, telling the Financial Times that a no-deal Brexit would have “insurmountable” consequences for the British economy and that the Netherlands would likely be one of the biggest losers from a hard Brexit.
Speaking to the Spanish El País newspaper in a separately published interview, Rutte also said that the departure of Britain from the E.U. would leave the Netherlands as the strongest voice for free trade and open markets within the bloc. He said that Britain was already weakening. “It is too small to appear on the world stage on its own,” he added.
“We should stick together, now more than ever,” Rutte said during a speech in Zurich on Wednesday. “Because if the chaos of Brexit teaches us anything, it’s that there’s no such thing as splendid isolation.”
Britain voted to leave the E.U. in June 2016. After more than two years of negotiations, however, the country has failed to agree upon a withdrawal agreement. With a deadline fast approaching, Britain’s Theresa May is struggling to get a Brexit deal through her own Parliament.