Some Dutch Remarks on English relations with the Continent


Just a couple of remarks as an indication of the Dutch perspective on English/British relations with the European continent.

First compare when the English were successful, and when not, in a struggle against France and French Hegemonism, and later against Nazism:

  • When the English kings (without Scottish support) tried to get the upper hand over weak French kings, you ended up with a 100 Years War, without succeeding in the end.
  • When the United Kingdom joined the Dutch Republic (from 1688 up to 1702 with a Orange “Stadhouder”, federal president, and from 1702 with the support of the “regenten” of Holland), their joint armies under Marlborough were stunningly successful in withstanding Louis XIV’s attempt to gain hegemony over Europe.
  • In the Battle of Britain, the RAF was already using French, Polish and Dutch squadrons (322 Spitfire Squadron) to combat the Luftwaffe’s bombers, fighters and rockets (V1, V2); without the Dutch, Poles and French, Churchills “so few” would have been even fewer. Without the Poles, there would have been no Enigma decoding at Bletchley Park.

And look to 20th and 21st century relations:

  • In the 1960’s and early 70’s, the Dutch stood up to De Gaulle’s vetos over British applications to join the EEC (which we always supported). Britain and Holland have together been a sobering counterweight to German and French attempts to dominate the EU and EMU. If the British now walk out in a huff of Trumpish isolationist jingoism, don’t count on any sympathy from the Dutch in renegotiating your outsider relations with the EU; you’ll be on your own against France and Merkel/Schäuble (the Tories aren’t Christian Democrats anymore, our CDA still are).
  • British federal (London) and regional (Wales) governments have to pitch in to support the British Steel ironworks that Tata is discarding. After Brexit, those British works will have to compete with, for example, the Dutch Tata steelworks (Hoogovens) inside the EU with an old inside track to German and French automobile and aircraft factories. How much British money will that require if the British works are to stay open?
  • London in the 18th century took over the European financial center role of the Amsterdam exchange/stock market. After Brexit, Amsterdam/ Paris (Euronext) and Frankfurt are readying themselves to take back parts of the role the London City is now able to play. Remember the scare when HSBC was threatening to move its HQ to Hong Kong? Shell, Barclays and Barings/ING Bank have old Dutch connections….
  • The Dutch have had good trade and cultural relations with the Baltic and Scandinavian countries ever since the late-medieval Hanseatic League. They have good relations with – and plenty of knowledge about – Indonesia (whose market Cameron is exploring); the only Briton ever to govern in Indonesia was Raffles on Java (1811-’16). If London’s relations with the Dutch go sour, that will diminish your potential for access there.



* Dr. Bernard Aris is a historian, a D66 parliamentary researcher and a LibDem supporting member.

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  • Eddie Sammon 16th May '16 - 1:23pm

    This is very good and actually the 100 years war is something we should talk about more, but probably don’t because we lost! We very nearly succeeded and even had our King coronated in Paris, but we weren’t able to do it in Reims so it wasn’t seen as entirely legitimate.

    We nearly succeeded because France was badly divided. It wasn’t until the last minute they decided to unite and kick us out.

    So the lesson is that deeply divided countries do not prosper and the same could be said for continents.

  • Peter Watson 16th May '16 - 2:11pm

    @Eddie Sammon “So the lesson is that deeply divided countries do not prosper and the same could be said for continents.”
    My knowledge of history does not go much beyond watching Horrible Histories with my children, but didn’t European countries, including our own, prosper and flourish while they exploited the rest of the world and simultaneously fought bitter wars with each other.

  • Dear Bernard Aris,

    May I express the warmest feelings for the Netherlands and especially thankyou for your mention of the RAF in the war.

    There are deep ties that bind us. In the awful “Hongerwinter” of 1944/45 rations were shared with locals and friendships made that survive to this day. Kiddies clothes and Christmas presents were somehow got there in 1944.

    A further example was when the good folk of Nijmegen recently honoured W.O. Bill Cain with a memorial stone. Bill was just 20 when he died trying to crash land his Typhoon onto a small football pitch at Brakkenstein in October 1944.

    Rather than bail out to save himself, he stayed with the disabled plane trying to avoid a densely populated area. These things go deep and left scars, but it was an honour to see the stone. Thank you Dutch friends for all your kindness and welcomes over the years. We must keep these ties alive.

  • If you need a history lesson, for sure LDV is a place to get one. But there is sometimes a tendency to leapfrog some bits of history without much scrutiny. But scrutiny is important. It wasn’t just the Dutch that supported our membership of the EEC. As a voter I endorsed it too, back in 1975 because the (EEC), European Economic Community made total sense to a 19 year old back then. But the EEC, ( probably the greatest miss selling scandal of the 20th Century! ) morphed via Maastricht,.. a brand new Euro currency, and some self imposed entity called the EU Commission,…into something called an ever closer EU superstate, …..all without any voter endorsement.?
    In articles like this please try to separate out,… Europe,.. EEC,.. and EU, because they are not the same thing, and absolutely not interchangeable within a debate. This is a very important point, because this referendum is about detaching Britain from the shackles of the EU. It is *not* about detaching from Europe, …far from it.
    The rest of this article appears to contain veiled threats of Dutch non co-operation during the 2 year negotiation period.? Well let me insert just one issue not yet addressed that will for certain come up in the negotiations, if we go for a Vote Leave.?
    The Common Fisheries Policy, was effectively a French invention to ‘Steal the Seas’ and the fish therein, around the British North Sea region. Be under no illusion, that in a Brexit negotiation, the CFP will be go back to square one, and any fishing licenses will be at the behest of a sovereign British government.
    The CFP is just one area which will definitely be up for re-negotiation,.. so for any of our ‘finger wagging’ neighbours who are keen to tell us what they will and will not support,.. please tread very cautiously, because there will be a great deal on the negotiation table, and those petulant neighbours, ought to be very careful with their ‘remarks’,.. until they are fully aware of what is at risk?
    Let’s all play nice?

  • Bernard Aris 16th May '16 - 8:43pm

    Dear Mr. Raw,

    thanks for your appreciation.
    On wedenesday May 4th, we had our annual Memorial day (our 11th. of November).
    There is still deep appreciation of the kind of heroism you describe by RAF pilots who were shot down. There was the annual debate around 4th of May: leave the dead in their RAF plane wrecks, so the local population can keep honoring their bravery; or dig them up and return them to their hometown?
    The South of the Netherlands was liberated by the “London Poles”; they couldn’t return to Poland so many stayed in Brabant province and the big cities and started families. Also the London-Polish Parachute Regiment got the highest possible Dutch miltary medal (“Militaire Willems-Orde”) for bailing out the British at Arnhem in autumn 1944.
    When the Dutch were supporting Solidarnosc in the 1980’s and sent over help convoys to the Poles, many Dutch Poles joined in; and the Polish Poles showed their appreciation. And the Polish government around Mr. Tusk showed their appreciation recently by giving prominent Dutch-European politicians medals. So there is a special bond between the Netherlands, Poland and the Polish Diaspora.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th May '16 - 9:04pm

    The D66 are a fine colleague in Liberal International , the Dutch are our staunch allies,and while many thought he talked double Dutch , our former leader was of their kin !

    Well done Bernard , good article .

  • Dear Bernard, Thank you for your very kind reply. I appreciate it

    Bill was a friend of Dad. Both were at Volkel, but Dad was lucky and came through… though the mental scars lasted a long time. I still have a photo of the local children being given Christmas presents and a party at Volkel with everyone singing carols.

    The Polish 1st Armoured Brigade were based near where I live at Duns in the Scottish Borders. They had a tame bear(called Wojtek) as a mascot – and there are plans to have a statue of the bear in Duns.

    I met some of the very old Polish Airborne veterans in Arnhem last September (brave old men) – Did you know the British General Urquhart in command at Arnhem was the father-in-law of our former leader, Menzies Campbell ?

    Best wishes -….. Vrij Nederland


  • Bernard Aris 17th May '16 - 12:07am

    I’ll answer Mr. Dun in two parts:
    *) one about how to get along in the EEC/EC/EU;
    *) and one on the reasons for the Dutch hard feelings about the (tone of) the Brexit Leave campaign, and our unwilligness to cut the UK any slack while renegotiating after Brexit.

    So here goes part I.
    The EEC is like coalition politics: you vote your ideals, but you get only your possibilities, and those fall short of all ideals from everybody. Just ask Nick Cleggs Cabinet team about the Tuition Fees decision. As lifelong coalition politicians, and people who often have run into Realpolitik walls in ECSC, EEC, EC and EU politics, we Dutch know that all too well.
    The High Authority of the ECSC was in reality a French power grab to get some control over the German Ruhr (sounds 1920’s? It was!) before the German Industry had recuperated. Ever since, France and Germany have used such federal executives to formalize their policy preferences. We in the Benelux know we cann’t stop that, so you play along and try to correct the course somewhat.
    Since D66 was founded in 1966, that’s what we’ve been doing:
    • first pushing for direct Europarliament elections (1966-’79); no cosy club of national MP’s each pushing national tendencies (Paris: over-regulation; Germans: Corporatism) masquerading as European parliament;
    • then joining Altiero Spinelli’s Crocodile Group (see Desmond Dinan’s books about EU history) for a more “communitarian”, less nation states-pleasing EC. They started the debate about an EU Constitution, which would have reinforced EU democracy and transparency, by eliminating obfuscation about each EU institution’s role and scope.
    • Then, around 2000, forcing the Prodi Commission to publish its proposals when they were sent to the Europarliament (D66 MEP Lousewies van der Laan); not much later, as afterthought.
    • Then (2008) D66 MEP Sophie in’t Veld opened up the debate about giving PNR ( = flight passenger data) to the US Homeland security spooks.
    • Now D66 MEP Marietje Schaake fighting for transparency and civil society influence on TTIP. And our MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy heading the EP inquiry in Volkswagens software fraud.
    Van der Laan, In’t Veld, Schaake and Gerbrandy are all in the English Wikipedia.

  • Bernard Aris 17th May '16 - 12:45am

    Dear Mr. Dun,

    I’m not uttering implicit threats, but concrete feelings living in Dutch political and business circles.
    This evening, two Dutch ex-ministers and financial/economic experts were on the Dutch equivalent of Newsnight (“Nieuwsuur”), discussing the British Brexit debate and the consequences for the Netherlands from a Brexit. Both have been living and working for years in the UK since being ministers.

    According to (Dutch) Oxford Economics professor Rick van der Ploeg (who even graduated at Cambridge; see Wikipedia; he’s PvdA/Labour), the Netherlands will be hit hard and double by Brexit:
    • It’s Napoleons Continental System and Disraeli’s Splendid Isolation again; both failed; we trade nations suffered badly under Napoleon (start British Corn Laws!); Dutch companies will both suffer and retreat from the City to Amsterdam;
    • And we Dutch lose an important ally in keeping at bay French regularization and Mercantilism (see CFP); you help the French take over the EU even more.
    So we suffer
    • both in our economic life, our corporate world, and
    • in terms of what Dutch and Britons both do and don’t want in EU politics and EU policies.
    Mr Hans Hoogervorst, from prime ministers Rutte’s center-right VVD, agreed; after heading our Financial Monitoring Authority (my summary of its task) he now heads the International Accounting Standards Board in London.
    Their judgement is backed up by similar misgivings from the Dutch Central Bank, big Dutch “System” banks like ABN AMRO and ING; and Economics and Finance professors and professionals.

    And after the Dutch had their WWII Memorial Day on May 4th, mentioning Hitlers monstrosity these days (Thatcher fired Ridley for that!) is sensitive in Dutch ears, especially if the real aim is just getting the Tory party leadership. Remember, the continent was 95% occupied by the Nazi’s (they killed my grandfather, a protestant pastor, for resistance work; I carry his name), Britain for only 5%.

    The two ways the Dutch will suffer from Brexit, after having supported the British in their way of doing EU policy making (Mr. Rutte and Mr. Cameron are famously warm pals!), explain the probability of very hard Dutch feelings after a Brexit.

  • David Evershed 17th May '16 - 5:47pm

    You don’t need to be married to have sex.

  • Bernard Aris 18th May '16 - 4:35pm

    Dear Mr. Evershed,

    everybody who is in a steady unmarried relationship and living together can tell you, that not being married carries legal complications married people often don’t have. I’m talking from the Dutch experience, but I suspect Britons have the same kind of issues:
    *) you have to formalise property and capital relationships: who owns the house; is all income from both partners put into a common account (in case of separation, that puts women who assumed housewife tasks and didn’t have income at a disadvantage); etcetera;
    *) D66 is just today putting forward an initiative law proposal in the Netherlands to ease legal parenthood (fatherhood; “mater semper certa est”) positions, because in the Netherlands fathers in unmarried relationships who have declared being the father have to get an extra legal document to be legal guardian of their child; we’re saying that last step shouldn’t be necessary;
    *) and if there is no love the sex becomes questionable.

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