BRUSSELS – Britain is a “waning country” and too small to stand alone on the world stage, the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, has claimed in an assessment of the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU).
According to The Guardian Rutte, who has emerged as a key player in the talks over the past two years, also warned in an interview that the UK looked to be sliding off the “precipice” towards a “devastating” no-deal Brexit.
The daily quoted Rutte, as saying UK: “…is already weakening, it is a waning country compared to two or three years ago. It is going to become an economy of middling size in the Atlantic Ocean. It is neither the US nor the EU. It is too small to appear on the world stage on its own.”
Rutte was speaking after a speech in Zurich Wednesday, February 13 in which he highlighted that the “chaos” of Brexit showed “there’s no such thing as splendid isolation”.
The Guardian says that Rutte, who also claimed the Dutch would replace the UK in the bloc as the pre-eminent voice for free trade, has been regularly consulted by Theresa May on progress in the Brexit negotiations.
The Netherlands is one of the EU member states that will be most affected by the barriers to trade that will emerge after the UK leaves the bloc.
However, figures released last week by the Dutch investment agency revealed 42 companies had relocated to the Netherlands in 2018, citing Brexit as a reason, resulting in the movement of close to 2,000 jobs.
Asked whether a Brexit deal was likely, Rutte said in an interview with European media outlets: “My impression is that the ball is heading towards the precipice and everyone screams to stop, but nobody does anything to stop it, at least, from the British side.”
Rutte said: “Some British parliamentarians say that we want to trap them in a permanent limbo. But it is not true. The EU is interested in moving to the next phase as soon as possible and starting a new relationship with the United Kingdom.
“But given May’s efforts to renegotiate the Irish safeguard, I do not know how this will end and if we can avoid a hard Brexit. It would be devastating for the UK.”
UK MPs are discussing the next steps in the Brexit talks today Thursday, February 14. Theresa May has asked the Commons to approve a motion that “reiterates its support for the approach to leaving the EU expressed by this house on 29 January”.