Dutch voters have overwhelmingly rejected a Ukraine-European Union treaty on closer political and economic ties, in a rebuke to their government and to the EU establishment.The broad political, trade and defence treaty – which had already been signed by the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte’s government and approved by all other EU nations, and Ukraine – provisionally took effect in January. But on Wednesday 64% of Dutch referendum voters rejected it; the turnout was just 32% – barely enough for the result to be valid. Voters said they were opposing not only the treaty but wider European policymaking on matters ranging from the migrant crisis to economics.
Though the referendum was non-binding, Rutte acknowledged late on Wednesday it was politically impossible for his unpopular government to ratify the treaty in its current form.
However, as the Dutch currently hold the EU’s rotating presidency, he will need time to figure out whether and how he can alter the treaty in a way that could satisfy all parties.
Rutte said the government would consult with parliament and its European partners “step by step. That could take days or weeks.”