First the French and now the Dutch have delivered a knock out blow to the EU. According to the Prime Minister the Dutch have overwhelmingly defeated the European Union constitution.
Less than an hour after the polls closed, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende conceded defeat in his campaign to ratify the constitution and said the government would respect the results of the overwhelmingly “no” vote on the referendum.
According to the exit poll projections it wasn’t even close forcing the Dutch Parliament to abide by the will of the people.
An exit poll projection broadcast by state-financed NOS television said the referendum failed by a vote of 63 percent to 37 percent. The turnout was 62 percent, exceeding all expectations, the broadcaster said.
Although the referendum was consultative, the high turnout and the decisive margin left no room for the Dutch parliament to turn its back on the people’s verdict. The parliament meets Thursday to discuss the results.
So much for consultive, the people have spoken. What an interesting concept the Dutch people casts their ballots on.
Like the French, many Dutch voters said in interviews that they were concerned the 25-member European Union had grown too much, too fast in recent years and that they feared giving more power to European bureaucrats in Brussels to regulate everyday life across the continent. Others characterized their displeasure as a protest vote against the Dutch government, which had lobbied for passage of the constitution.
“Europe is big now and that’s a good thing,” said Peer van der Wonde, a 52-year-old artist and furniture designer, shortly after he voted “no” at city hall in The Hague.”But we have to be careful. In the last 10 years, the people in Brussels have tried to minimize the input of regular people in democratic decisions.”
All 25 member nations of the European Union must ratify the constitution before it can take effect. Nine countries had approved the charter until Sunday, when France defeated the measure decisively in a national referendum, a devastating political setback that may force the EU to drop or rewrite the document. With the Dutch following suit, European leaders said they would convene in Brussels at a previously scheduled summit June 16-17 to decide what to do next.
Live Blogging with Peaktalk
Hat Tip: Captain’s Quarters, Dutch: We Are The Knights Who Say … Nee (classic)
Update: The BBC chimes in.
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the result of the French and Dutch votes “now raises profound questions for all of us about the future direction of Europe”.
It is truly amazing just how far out of the publics mainstream will the Dutch politicians really were. Not even the politicians that were against the EU Constitution even considered the extent of the Popular discontent.
One of the leading “no” campaigners in the Netherlands, right-wing politician Geert Wilders, told reporters he had not expected such a decisive result – which exceeded poll predictions.
“I am extremely happy with it,” he said.
“If you realize that two-thirds of parliament supported the constitution and two out of three people in the land are against, it means a lot is wrong in the country.”
UPDATE II: The net result of the second strike against the EU; euro fell further on Wednesday, slumping to an eight-month low against the US dollar amid rumblings over the long-term future of the eurozone.
The fresh selling was prompted by a report claiming that Hans Eichel, the German finance minister, and Axel Weber, the president of the Bundesbank, were present at a meeting at which the possible break-up of European Monetary Union was discussed.
The German Bundestag is also said to have commissioned a report on the legal repercussions of a country wishing to leave the EMU.
“Our view is that EMU will not break up. That will be way down the line as the last resort because of the political capital everyone has got invested in it,” he said.
Nevertheless Mr Norfield added that if a break-up was to occur, it would be a “disaster” for the euro.