VOLENDAM, Netherlands (Reuters) - The leader of Britain’s UK Independence Party said on Monday that a Dutch vote against an EU treaty with Ukraine would give a boost to the Brexit camp less than three months from a British referendum on quitting the 28-nation bloc.
Voters in the Netherlands go to the polls on Wednesday in a referendum that is formally about the treaty, but that activists present as an opportunity to cast a vote against European integration.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage told Reuters on a visit to the Netherlands that a Dutch ‘No’ would embolden British voters who believed they were alone in Europe in holding eurosceptic views.
“If there is a healthy turn-out and if there is a strong ‘No’ vote in the referendum, it sends a big message,” he said. “A ‘No’ vote here would be taken by many back home as a sign that this growth in euroscepticism isn’t just in our country, it’s happening elsewhere.”
British polls suggest that younger people overwhelmingly back continued EU membership, in sharp contrast to the more eurosceptical over-55s - a contrast that Farage attributed to the influence of university education.
“The universities don’t even attempt intellectual neutrality ... I do feel that British youth have a different view because of what they’ve been told,” he said.
The Dutch vote was triggered after a satirical website collected enough signatures to call a referendum on the treaty, a broad trade, political and defense agreement which grants Ukraine access to EU markets in exchange for ramped up reform efforts in the troubled former Soviet republic.
Dutch politicians have warned that a rejection of the treaty would hand a symbolic victory to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who backs separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine who are widely blamed in the Netherlands for the downing of an airliner in 2014 with the loss of almost 200 Dutch lives.
Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Mark Heinrich