Netherlands referendum: What does the Dutch vote mean for Britain’s EU debate?

Commuters stand in line at a voting tent at Utrecht Central Station, to vote on a non-binding referendum on an EU cooperation deal with Ukraine, on April 6 2016. © Robin van Lonkhuijsen / ANP
Dutch citizens are taking part in a referendum on an EU-Ukraine treaty, but pundits say the vote marks an important test of public opinion on the EU. RT explains what is happening in the Netherlands and how it could affect Britain.

People of the Netherlands are being asked to decide whether to back a treaty which seeks to strengthen ties with Ukraine. That’s what the referendum is technically about, at any rate.

But pundits say the vote, which is only the third referendum in Dutch history, is really a litmus test on the EU.

What is the Netherlands’ referendum about?

Dutch voters will decide whether or not to approve a treaty between the EU and Ukraine. The agreement seeks to strengthen economic and political ties between the 28-nation bloc and Kiev.

The treaty also proposes a number of defense and security agreements.

Why is it taking place?

In September, a group of young satirists at the website GeenStijl collected over 450,000 signatures to force the Netherlands to hold a non-binding referendum concerning the EU’s planned association agreement with Kiev.

Under Dutch law, any petition that gains more than 300,000 is enough to trigger such a vote.

“Have you ever been asked what you think of such an expansion of the EU?” asked the website at the time, noting this is one of the major gripes among the Dutch population.

Is that all there is to it?

The Dutch people view the referendum as a test of public opinion on the EU, with many voters using it as a chance to protest against the bloc’s expansion and what they consider top-down decision making.

Will it impact Britain’s referendum on the EU?

UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage believes the ‘Leave’ campaign will be emboldened by a Dutch rejection of the treaty.

However he also accepted a ‘Yes’ vote on Wednesday would be a blow to the Brexit campaign.

Writing in Breitbart on Tuesday, Farage said: “I have a feeling that what [GreenStijl] have achieved in the Netherlands could serve as a useful template for even more radical change in our democracy in the not too distant future.”