Dutch To Follow French Example

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Dutch workers are ready to deal another blow to the bosses and bankers’ EU by following the example of the French and voting ‘NO’ to the proposed EU Constitution in tomorrow’s referendum.

Leading ‘No’ campaigner Harry van Bommel, of the Dutch Socialist Party, said yesterday he expected the ‘No’ campaign to get an even higher majority than expected after the French vote.

Bommel said: ‘The Dutch prime minister has always said that we would look a fool in Europe if we were the only ones who voted “No”.

‘Everyone now has a greater freedom to say “No”.’

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he was disappointed with the outcome of the French vote, but renewed his appeal for voters to back the treaty.

‘The process of ratification continues and the result gives the Dutch one more reason to vote “Yes”,’ he said.

A rattled Economic Affairs Minister Jan Brinkhorst said voting ‘No’ ‘would be a very short-sighted vision’, adding ‘we are not a province of France, we are not a province of Europe, we are an independent country’.

Dutch opinion polls have been predicting a resounding ‘No’ vote with the latest, for Dutch TV on Saturday, suggesting that 57 per cent were opposed to the constitutional treaty and 43 per cent were in favour.

The Netherlands is one of the EU’s founding members.

Meanwhile in Britain yesterday, Prime Minister Blair and his Foreign Secretary Straw were left shocked and unsure by the French vote.

Both men said ‘it is time for reflection’.

Straw said: ‘This decision by such a wide margin by the French electorate, is profound, does change things.’

He admitted that the Dutch vote ‘will obviously be significant’.

But he added: ‘We don’t need to make a decision just now, so we’re not going to.’

A shaken Blair interrupted his holiday in Italy to make a short statement.

He said: ‘Having this time for reflection is sensible because of the French vote.

‘If there still is a constitution to vote on we will have a vote in Britain before ratifying it.’

Blair added: ‘What is important now is having a time for reflection with the Dutch referendum in a couple of days’ time and the European council in the middle of June where the leaders will discuss the implications of the votes that have taken place.’

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy said: ‘Without the acquiescence of the French, you can’t really make meaningful progress on this constitution.’

In France, government ministers were furious over the working class vote.

Not only was the vote 55 per cent against, and 45 per cent for, it was all the more significant for the high 70 per cent turnout, reflecting the intensity of the national debate.

Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie called the vote ‘a defeat for France and a defeat for Europe’.

Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said: ‘This is an ordeal, a real disappointment.’

The French employers’ federation, Medef, has reacted to the ‘No’ vote by calling for urgent ‘reforms’ to boost the economy.

Medef president Ernest-Antoine Seilliere said the vote ‘weakens the French economy, France and Europe’.