Jo Biddle

Britain's vote to leave the EU has sent shockwaves across the Netherlands, a founding father of the European community, but despite a push by eurosceptics analysts say a referendum here is unlikely soon.

"Now it is our turn," trumpeted Geert Wilders, the leader of the anti-Islam far right Freedom Party (PVV), just after the results landed.

With Dutch MPs gearing to debate the seismic impact of the Brexit this week, ahead of general elections in March, the fallout will dominate the political scene for months to come.

How it is viewed in this small trading nation of 17 million people - which unlike Britain is part of the eurozone - may largely depend on the kind of deal the Brits get from the EU as they head out the door.

Wilders has promised to make a referendum on a "Nexit" a central plank of his party's election campaign.

And he is already eyeing the power of the premiership, with polls having consistently shown in recent months that the PVV could emerge the largest party in the 150-seat parliament, although not with a majority.

Reinvent democracy

"I believe we should reinvent democracy," Wilders told AFP, insisting the Dutch people had a right to vote on the country's EU membership.

"A real democracy cannot exist without a nation state. People don't feel connected to a European commission or a council of men they don't know... that they didn't vote for."

Constitutionally it would be very difficult to call a referendum now, and such a move does not enjoy enough support in parliament.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who ardently called for Britain to stay, said Friday he believed there was little "interest" for a fresh people's ballot on the EU. But Wilders vowed that if he is tasked with forming a coalition government in March, "I would govern with parties that would want such a referendum."

The Dutch have already twice voted convincingly against the European project.

More than 61 percent of the Dutch rejected the draft European constitution in 2005.

And in April this year, they dealt the EU a further blow by rejecting its cooperation treaty with Ukraine in a non-binding ballot pushed by grassroots eurosceptics using a law which would not apply to a more general referendum on EU ties.–AFP

A la carte deal?

Analyst Peter Van Ham said the mood in the Netherlands would depend on whether EU leaders give the Brits a "kneecapping" for daring to leave, or decide to treat fairly a country "that twice saved them in two world wars."

"If the UK gets a good deal, a kind of Switzerland deal, access to the markets, a pick-and-choose, a la carte kind of deal," he said, then voters' impressions that being out of the EU would be like "being North Korea would be less likely," he told AFP.

After crisis talks in Berlin at the weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to warn against a nasty divorce despite calls from some to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Member states should "calmly and prudently analyse and evaluate the situation," Merkel said. But Van Ham, senior research fellow at the Clingendael think-tank in The Hague, warned some "people in Brussels are true believers and the European project is very dear to them."

They might feel it best to "put some pressure on the UK for a while in the hope that the ghost of euroscepticism will be defeated," he said, adding "I don't think" it will be.

A poll under the headline "Afraid of Nexit" by the leading conservative daily De Telegraaf Saturday appeared to back Rutte's claim that the Dutch are more wary of cutting loose their ties to Europe.

People believed a Nexit "would be bad for our wallets. And without Europe, the Netherlands will have less presence on the world stage," De Telegraaf wrote.

The survey of 1,000 people found if a vote were held today, a majority of Dutch people - 51 percent - would plump to stay in the EU with some 34 percent choosing to go. Some 13 percent were undecided.

But the unfolding story of Britain's departure from the EU will likely be keenly watched in The Netherlands in the months to come. AFP