How the Dutch approached Brexit

Puzzle with flags of Netherlands and the UK, photo by luzitanija/Adobe Stock

Photo by luzitanija/Adobe Stock

What is the issue?

On 24 June 2016, the electoral commission in London announced that a majority of Britons were in favour of leaving the European Union. This date marks the beginning of a long period of preparations and negotiations, both in the United Kingdom and in the EU.

In the Netherlands, these preparations involved the entire central government. The Dutch knew that British departure from the EU would have a potentially considerable impact for the Netherlands, as the UK was its third largest trade partner at the time, and tens of thousands of British citizens resided in the Netherlands and vice versa.

For the Netherlands it was important that

  • Dutch interests would be well represented in the EU negotiations with the UK,
  • Dutch legislation and regulations would be amended to prepare for the new European external border and
  • other stakeholders, such as citizens and businesses, would be informed and would prepare themselves well.

In March 2019, during plenary debate in the Dutch Senate about Brexit, the Minister of Foreign Affairs promised an independent evaluation of the Dutch government's preparations.

How are we helping?

RAND Europe and Berenschot have been commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to conduct the independent evaluation of the government-wide Brexit effort. In line with the objectives stated above, the evaluation addresses three central research questions:

  1. Was the Dutch government sufficiently prepared for the potential consequences of Brexit and were the intended results achieved in view of contingency planning and preparedness/readiness for all scenarios in various phases of Brexit?
  2. How was the Dutch position determined, were interests adequately represented in the various phases of the negotiations and how is this reflected in the final result (i.e. the Withdrawal Agreement and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement)?
  3. What did the Dutch coordination of the Brexit effort and the domestic preparations for the Brexit cost, what was that money spent on and were these expenditures effective?

To address these research questions, we have adopted a mixed-methods approach, combining different methodologies, including: desk research, semi-structured stakeholder interviews, online surveys and virtual focus groups. The collected information will be analysed, triangulated and synthesised.