Dutch PM criticizes populist politician's "irresponsible" Nexit views

Forum voor Democratie leader Thierry Baudet is taking an "irresponsible risk with our security, our stability, and our prosperity" with his positive attitude towards the Netherlands leaving the European Union, VVD leader and Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in a speech about Europe on Tuesday, NOS reports.

The FvD wants Brussels to have less power. The populist party's website states that the FvD considers European cooperation very important, but that the EU is a "completely undemocratic mess". For that reason Baudet, who supports a Nexit, wants to hold a referendum on Dutch EU membership.

"With all the turmoil in the world", the Netherlands desperately needs European cooperation, Rutte said. He believes that Baudet's Nexit standpoint is based on "weird inventions, based on wonderful theories that he came up with somewhere in an attic room". 

On Friday the Prime Minister told NOS that it would be a bad sign if pro-Nexit parties become big in the European elections. "It is terrible for the Netherlands if that happens." The EU is far from perfect, he added on Tuesday, "but we cannot afford to turn our back on it". Rutte referred to the imminent trade war between the United States and China, and the turmoil in the world that could cause new refugee influxes. 

Rutte's personal attack on Baudet and his party comes just over a week before the European Parliament elections, which are being held in the Netherlands on May 23rd.  The VVD leader wants a debate with Baudet before this election. Whether that will actually happen, remains to be seen. Baudet's spokesperson told NOS that the FvD likes a bit of political tension, but that Rutte's speech was a bit thin. 

According to political reporter Ron Fresen, the fact that the VVD leader opted for such a direct attack on Baudet shows that he sees the FvD as a major competitor. Baudet's party got the most votes in the Provincial States election in March - the first time the party ran for this election. Rutte hopes for a battle between the VVD and FvD, Frensen said to the broadcaster. "Rutte has something to reclaim. At the VVD, they think that many of their former voters switched to Forum primarily because of migration and climate. And that group, which includes many entrepreneurs, does not want experiments with the EU and a Nexit. They can therefore be won back, thinks the VVD."

Frensen thinks that Rutte's speech on Tuesday will certainly not harm Baudet. "In an election campaign, this is a gift from heaven. If your big competitor attacks you and even wants to make it into a fight, it will always benefit your party. It attracts a lot of attention and possibly also many voters."