AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - One of the Dutch parliament’s Brexit rapporteurs said on Monday the government was drafting a “playbook” to be ready by October in case Britain leaves the European Union with no deal in place.
The Netherlands, along with Ireland, are anxious to see an orderly British exit from the EU next year preserving close economic ties with the bloc as they are both among Britain’s largest trading partners.
The Dutch have already begun hiring 1,000 extra officials, mostly in the port of Rotterdam, to prepare for the extra bureaucracy required for British goods to go through customs before entering the EU after Brexit.
The Dutch parliament unanimously approved a motion from their three Brexit rapporteurs on Friday asking the government to prepare for a no-deal Brexit “and the associated potential chaos”.
Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt said in a telephone interview with Reuters on Monday that the Dutch economy has too much at stake for the government not to begin preparations for a possible British crash out of the EU should negotiations collapse.
“For us, we need to have a clear view that there’s a British government in place with support of a majority that knows what kind of Brexit they want,” he said, alluding to months of paralysing feuding between pro-Brexit and pro-EU members of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative cabinet.
“As we do not see that clearly, we have asked the government to intensify contingency planning.”
The Dutch government has agreed to begin planning and will brief lawmakers in September, Omtzigt said.
“We would rather have hired 1,000 more teachers or nurses, but we must be prepared just in case,” he said.
He noted that parliament took its decision shortly before May presented her cabinet’s Brexit negotiating position on Friday - and well before two senior ministers resigned on Monday in protest at her plan to stay economically aligned with the EU.
He said May’s approach, now in doubt in the face of a possible revolt by hardline eurosceptic members of her party following the resignations, “would have been a good place to start negotiations two years ago”.
Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Mark Heinrich