Dutch 'no' campaign helped by French result

Click to follow
The Independent Online

"Yes" campaigners in the Netherlands have all but abandoned hope of victory in tomorrow's referendum on the European constitution as opinion polls last night predicted a second clear "no" vote from a founder member of the EU.

"Yes" campaigners in the Netherlands have all but abandoned hope of victory in tomorrow's referendum on the European constitution as opinion polls last night predicted a second clear "no" vote from a founder member of the EU.

The second such vote in four days could kill off any lingering hopes that the constitution will come into force. For that to happen all 25 EU member states must ratify the treaty.

At least 59 per cent of voters will oppose the constitution with only 41 per cent in favour, according to a new poll carried out by the country's best-known pollster, Maurice de Hond. He also projected a turnout of around 48 per cent which is much higher than earlier forecasts and is likely to boost the "no" vote.

Last night Michiel van Hulten, a former MEP and organiser of an umbrella group of "yes" supporters, admitted: "I think we need a small miracle before Wednesday if we are to reverse the trend. At this stage it is extremely unlikely."

Still reeling from the French "no" and the latest bleak opinion poll forecasts, all the main Dutch political leaders are pulling out all the stops ahead of the vote tomorrow.

Jan Peter Balkenende, the Prime Minister, put on a brave face, arguing: "We must not let ourselves be influenced by the French; their 'no' is even more of a reason for us to vote 'yes'."

The Economic Affairs Minister, Jan Brinkhorst, added: "We are not a province of France, we are an independent country. To look to events in France and think that we should also vote 'no' would be a very short-sighted vision."

A prominent diplomat in The Hague said: "It seems highly probable that this country will vote 'no'. But if there had been a French 'yes' and a Dutch 'no', it would have been even worse because of the isolation and the uphill battle to re-establish our position in Europe; you could say we have now slipped through the eye of the needle, as it were."

Wouter Bos, the leader of the opposition Labour PvdA, argued that there was no reason "why the Dutch should also reject the constitution - as both left and right-wing voters in France said 'no'".

Boris van der Ham, an MP with the Democrat D66 party, called on the Netherlands to exercise its historic position of independence by voting in favour, thus refusing to be influenced by the French. "Doing so is the only way to reduce the €40bn (£27bn) in agriculture subsidies and the Dutch contribution to the EU budget", he said.

"The Dutch have seen that people have the right to say 'no'," said a prominent campaigner, Harry van Bommel of the Socialist Party, following the crucial outcome of the referendum in France.

"Before, we were being told by our Prime Minister that we would look like a fool in Europe if we were the only ones who voted 'no'," said Mr Van Bommel. "But people will now feel more confident about voting down the constitution."

Atzo Nicolai, the European Affairs Minister, ruled out a second referendum yesterday in the event of a "no" vote. "In the Dutch situation I have absolutely no plans for a second referendum. I don't see an opportunity for renegotiating," he said.

"If the Netherlands also says 'no', then we have a big problem for Europe."

The state of play

ALREADY RATIFIED

  • Germany (Parliamentary vote) 27 May 2005
  • Slovakia (Parliamentary vote) 11 May 2005
  • Hungary (Parliamentary vote) 20 December 2004
  • Greece (Parliamentary vote) 12 May 2005
  • Italy (Parliamentary vote) 6 April 2005
  • Slovenia (Parliamentary vote) 1 February 2005
  • Lithuania (Parliamentary vote) 11 November 2004
  • Spain (Referendum) 20 February 2005

NOT RATIFIED

  • France (Referendum) Majority voted "no" 29 May

AWAITING RATIFICATION

  • Netherlands (Referendum) Tomorrow
  • Czech Republic (Referendum) Expected in June
  • Cyprus (Parliamentary vote) 30 June
  • Belgium (Parliamentary vote) Awaiting lower house vote
  • Austria (Parliamentary vote) Awaiting upper house vote
  • Malta (Parliamentary vote) July
  • Estonia (Parliamentary vote) Late August
  • Poland (Referendum) 25 September
  • Denmark (Referendum) 27 September
  • Sweden (Parliamentary vote) September
  • Portugal (Referendum) October
  • Luxembourg (Referendum) 10 July
  • Finland (Parliamentary vote) December/January
  • Ireland (Referendum) Late 2005/early 2006
  • Latvia (Parliamentary vote) Delayed by translation errors
  • UK (Referendum) 2006

Comments