Europe

Brexit 'monster' urges Dutch to prepare

Foreign Minister Stef Blok with Brexit monster (official tweet) Image copyright Stef blok
Image caption Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok (L) poses with an invasive Brexit monster

The Dutch government sees Brexit not as the elephant in the room but as a giant Muppet-style monster lying on a desk.

That is the picture tweeted by Foreign Minister Stef Blok, with the warning: "make sure Brexit doesn't sit - or lie - in your way".

There is a link to an official website where Dutch firms can see the potential impact of Brexit on their business.

The Netherlands is among the UK's top trading partners, and Dutch officials say Brexit could deliver a major blow.

There is much speculation that the UK could leave the EU without a deal on 29 March - seen by many as the worst-case scenario.

Image copyright Brexitloket
Image caption The government's Brexitloket website offers a Brexit impact test

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Dutch hospitals have warned that a sudden UK exit could cause shortages of medicines and other medical supplies.

But the furry monster is an effort to lift some of that doom-and-gloom, at least for the Dutch.

The monster is already a hit on Twitter.

The government is also running radio ads to warn Dutch businesses about the looming impact of Brexit.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Britain was a "diminished" country since its vote for Brexit in 2016 and he warned that a no-deal exit risked "insurmountable" and "devastating" consequences for the UK economy.

In a Financial Times interview he voiced alarm that "the ball is rolling towards the Dover cliff and we are shouting 'Stop the ball from rolling any further' but nobody is doing anything at the moment, at least not on the UK side".

The Dutch government says there has already been some benefit to the Netherlands from Brexit, however.

It says €291m (£256m; $328m) in investment came to the Netherlands last year and 42 firms moved there - allegedly as a direct effect of Brexit.

The EU medicines agency has left London for Amsterdam, because of Brexit. The Dutch have also persuaded Japanese electronic giants Sony and Panasonic to locate their European HQs in the Netherlands.

A blunt message from the friendly Dutch

By Anna Holligan in Amsterdam

In the two years since the Brexit vote the Dutch have been quietly, conscientiously adapting. So much so that one of the nations predicted to be hardest hit by a no-deal Brexit might just be turning the tide in its favour.

These two sea-faring nations share extensive trade links, political ties and cultural similarities. Which is perhaps why the Dutch feel qualified to pass judgement - being blunt is a source of national pride and ingrained in the Dutch psyche.

In the Netherlands you can always be sure of a stranger reminding you to follow the rules.

In the last 24 hours I've been told to switch on my bike lights (it was 08:30 and well after sunrise), take off my coat in a cafe (I'd just arrived) and put my bike in a designated stand rather than against a lamp post.

I was recently told this intrusive behaviour is rooted in a time when there was no state infrastructure so the people depended on policing each other.

Anyone tempted to tell the Dutch to mind their own business when it comes to Brexit should realise that's exactly what they're doing.

Presenting Brexit as a giant blue "Muppet" not only draws internet traffic - it also serves as a reminder that, for those who want to keep a foothold in the EU, the Netherlands is wide open for business. The message is: it's a strong, stable nation just next door, where English is widely spoken.