Leading British eurosceptic Nigel Farage will visit the Netherlands in April to help whip up support for a key Dutch referendum aimed at opposing an EU cooperation deal with Ukraine.
Even though the 6 April vote is non-binding on the Dutch government, it will be closely watched as top European Union officials have warned a “no” vote could trigger a crisis within the bloc.
“I wanna come and help,” says Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), in a video posted late Friday on the site of one of the Dutch groups campaigning against the EU deal.
He says he hopes the Dutch vote could lend impetus to Britain’s own landmark referendum on whether to leave the EU, scheduled for 23 June.
“I’ve got everything crossed, because if you win your referendum, my goodness me, that’ll help in Britain too,” says the British politician who will speak at a 4 April event in Amsterdam.
The Dutch vote comes after a citizens’ campaign spearheaded by three strongly eurosceptic groups garnered the 300,000 votes needed to trigger a non-binding referendum.
While the referendum is on a fairly narrow topic of a trade deal with Kyiv, the groups are seeking to harness broader scepticism and anger against the EU fuelled in part by the recent influx of migrants.
Last month, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker urged Dutch voters not to oppose the EU cooperation deal with Ukraine, saying such a move “could open the doors to a continental crisis”.
“Let’s not change the referendum into a vote about Europe,” Juncker urged Dutch voters in an interview in January with the NRC daily newspaper.
“I sincerely hope that (the Dutch) won’t vote no for reasons that have nothing to do with the treaty itself.”
The timing of the referendum comes at an embarrassing time for the Dutch government, which currently holds the rotating six-month EU presidency.
The Dutch coalition Liberal-Labour government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte has decided not to actively campaign for a “yes” vote, but has said it will examine the results.
The 2014 association agreement with Kyiv provisionally came into effect on 1 January and nudges the former Soviet bloc nation towards eventual EU membership.