IMF: Netherlands among most affected in the event of a hard Brexit

The Netherlands is one of the countries which will be most affected in the event of a ‘hard’ Brexit, the IMF has warned. Should Britain pull out of the EU without any fixed trade deal in place next March, the Dutch national income would fall by 0.7%. Only Ireland with a projected fall back of 4% in national income would be worse affected, the IMF said. Britain itself would suffer a loss of 4% of NNI. The Fund's report said a ‘soft’ Brexit scenario - with the UK out of the customs union but retaining access to the single market and agreeing to abide by EU rules – ‘would imply almost zero cost for the EU as a whole.’ The publication of the report marks the first time the Washington DC-based IMF has made any comment on Brexit. Meanwhile, the European Commission said on Thursday that the chance of a no-deal Brexit is increasing and that companies and private individuals should prepare for every eventuality. 'Tthe UK will no longer be a member state after withdrawal and will no longer enjoy the same benefits as a member,' the commission said.  'Therefore, preparing for the UK becoming a third country is of paramount importance, even in the case of a deal between the EU and the UK.' In particular, 'the citizens who will be affected by the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, as well as the public administrations that serve them, should also prepare for 30 March 2019,' the statement said. Earlier this week, three Dutch MPs filed questions calling on the government to outline the consequences of a no-deal Brexit on British citizens in the Netherlands and Dutch nationals in Britain.  More >

Stef Blok fall-out continues

The fall-out of foreign affairs minister Stef Blok's comments on multiculturalism and immigration continues to be felt, with Labour MPs now calling for parliament to be recalled for a debate. The government of Curaçao has also issued a statement distancing itself from the comments, pointing out that Blok also speaks on behalf of the Caribbean part of the Netherlands. 'The government cannot accept in any way these comments which strike at the very heart of the multicultural Curaçao society,' the statement said. 'It is our diversity which makes us powerful.' Blok has been under fire since television current affairs show Zembla went public with footage of the minister at a meeting for Dutch nationals who work in foreign organisations. ‘I have asked my ministry this and I will pose the question here as well,’ Blok said. ‘Give me an example of a multi-ethnic or a multi-cultural society, in which the original population still lives, and where there is a peaceful cohabitation. I don’t know of one.’ The Financieele Dagblad points out that Blok's words last week completely contradict the position taken on the government's own website to promote foreign trade. 'As one of the world’s most multicultural hubs for creative talent, Holland is, simply put, a great place to bring ideas to life,' the website for the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency states, before going on to praise the 'exceptional quality of life.' In the Volkskrant, former VVD parliamentarian Arend Jan Boekesteijn argues that even though Blok has 'taken back' his words, that will not take away the damage he has done both in the Netherlands and abroad. 'Blok would appear to have embraced the integration pessimism of the PVV, even though the 2016 report on integration by the CBS shows clear points of optimism,' Boekesteijn said. In addition, he points out, international companies use international teams to develop new ideas and products. 'The power of diversity in these circles is not in doubt,' he said. Impact The Dutch employers organisation VNO-NCW declined to comment on the potential impact of Blok's words. This, the FD says, is in sharp contrast to the role adopted by previous VNO-NCW chief who was quick to condemn statements by PVV leader Geert Wilders because of the damage they could do to the image of the Netherlands abroad.  More >

Regulated marijuana trial should be bigger

The government's highest advisory body, the Council of State, has thrown its weight behind criticism of plans to begin trials of regulated marijuana production. The organisation says the experiment should be bigger than the government has determined, a criticism made last month by a panel of experts set up to develop the proposals. The Council of State, which points out the experiment conflicts with European law and United Nations' treaties, states that the trial must be 'useful, believable and scientific' to have any merit. But the experiment as now planned - with just six to 10 councils taking part over a four year period - will not be big enough to allow useful conclusions to be drawn, the council said. In June, the commission working out the practicalities said the government's plan is not wide enough to be properly representative and to allow methodological analysis. Grey area The experiment with regulated growing is supposed to remove the gray area between the sale of marijuana in council-licenced coffee shops and the illegal cultivation and supply. However, justice minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus and health minister Bruno Bruins, who are in charge of the project, have rejected the criticism. 'The cabinet believes that it is feasible to carry out a useful and scientifically relevant experiment within the current legislative proposals,' the ministers said. The draft legislation is due to be debated in parliament this autumn.  More >

Thieves steal 114 tonnes of cobalt

Rotterdam port Thieves have stolen 114 tonnes of cobalt from a secure warehouse in Rotterdam's port area, local broadcaster RTV Rijnmond reported on Friday. The haul has a value of some €7m and must have been removed by lorry but it is unclear as yet how the thieves were able to do this, RTV Rijnmond said. Cobalt is a rare mineral used largely for the production of batteries and pigments. The theft from the Vollers warehouse took place between July 5 and July 9, the Minor Metals Trade Association said in a statement issued to members earlier this week. 'Additional monitoring and security have been implemented since the discovery of the theft, and Vollers are working closely with police and insurers,' the MMTA said.   More >

Alkmaar dance festival faces Sunday ban

A group of strict Protestants who believe Sunday should be a day of rest are going to court on Friday to have a festival in the centre of Alkmaar banned. The Vereniging Zondagsrust is using legislation dating from 1815 to make its case to halt the outdoor dance party, due to be held on Sunday August 26. The legislation, which was amended in 1953, states that there must be no noise nuisance close to churches before 13.00 on Sunday or any public entertainment nearby, unless local councils rule otherwise. But it also stops local councils in strict Protestant communities from banning sports events on Sundays. Councils are allowed to deviate from the rules, but must properly support their arguments, association lawyer Laus Vogelaar told local paper Noordhollands Dagblad. And, he says, the town council has failed to mention the legislation when granting the licence for the event. Sunday as a day of rest is being increasingly undermined, he says, adding 'it is right that the courts take a look at it'. The Alkmaar resident who initiated the legal action told local website Alkmaar Centraal he hoped the courts would realise the importance of having a day of rest to city centre residents. The previous coalition government had planned to remove the law from the statute books but the new coalition, which includes two Christian parties, decided to leave it unchallenged.  More >

Amsterdam tops expensive terrace league

The price of a round of drinks on a Dutch cafe terrace has gone up by an average of 2.4% this year, but in Utrecht and Den Bosch the rise has been has much as 4.5%, according to the annual survey by Van Spronsen & Partners. The hospitality industry consultancy checked out the price of two coffees, two beers, two glasses of rosé and two soft drinks in the biggest Dutch cities. Amsterdam tops the list with an average bill of €25.10 while the same drinks in bottom of the list Zwolle would cost you €21.35. Iced coffee and specialty beers are new hot items this summer, spokesman Guido Verschoor said.   More >

Rare amulet reveals 'occult Zutphen'

Archaeologists in Zutphen on the river IJssel in Gelderland have found a rare 17th century amulet connected with alchemistic activity in the town, local broadcaster Omroep Gelderland reports. Building sites are routinely checked for possible finds as it is often the last chance for archaeologists to investigate a particular spot. In this case work to the quayside enabled archaeologists to investigate. The amulet is made of a silver alloy and measures 49mm across. It has three holes, which experts say were meant to nail the amulet to a surface or sew it onto a piece of clothing. Alchemistisch amulet opgegraven in Zutphen — NOS (@NOS) July 20, 2018 At the moment a layer of rust is obscuring part of the lettering on the object but an octogram can be distinguished on one side with the names of the planets and a Latin translation on the edge. On the other side archaeologists have found alchemistic symbols and what they think are the words ‘tetragammaton+Maria’ and possibly ‘Agla+Emanuel’ - phrases that can be found on  similar amulets. The first word means ‘four letters’ and refers to Jahweh or God. The texts, which are often found on objects related to alchemy and the Christian Kaballah, were used as a charm to protect the wearer of the amulet. It is the second time an object like this is found in Zutphen and the town was ‘a hotbed’ of occult activity in the 17th century, the broadcaster writes. In 2010 building activity to the local crematorium yielded a gilded bronze amulet with similar phrasing, also from the 17th century. At the time of the Reformation no fewer than 1600 people in and around Zutphen engaged in occultism, among whom exorcist Arnt Schimmelpenninck, a former canon of the church of Sint Walburgis. The amulet is being cleaned and will form part of a small exhibition on 'occult Zutphen' some time in the future.  More >

Industrial accidents on the rise

Just over one in 100 workers in 2017 suffered a work-related injury which required sick leave of four or more days, the national statistics office CBS reported on Friday. The figure is slightly higher than in the previous year. In total some 93,000 people developed a work-related injury last year. Fifty percent of the accidents were in the health care, trade and industrial sectors. The CBS said this is logical since the sectors employ half the working population. Every year some 20,000 people are rushed to hospital in an ambulance after a job-related accident. In 75% of cases the people suffered from broken bones, wounds or sprains.   More >

Dutch Muslim convert found guilty

A young Dutch woman who converted to Islam and went to Syria has been jailed for 413 days, 180 days suspended by judges in Den Bosch. The court said that there was enough evidence Lieke S was planning to join terrorist organisation IS, despite her claims she had wanted to help refugees. S will not have to return to jail, because she has spent some eight months in custody prior to the trial. She was arrested at the end of 2016 on the Turkish Syrian border after leaving the Netherlands after the summer of that year. S has also been told not to leave the Netherlands during her three years' probation period and that she must cooperate in meetings with Islam experts.   More >

Limburg toddlers to learn Limburgish?

Toddlers in Limburg are to be spoken to in Limburgish in an effort to help keep the local language alive, the Limburger newspaper said on Thursday. The province is launching an experiment at play group Spelenderwijs in the far south in which play group leaders will talk to the children in Limburgish rather than Dutch. Some words, such as hin for hen, are fairly easy to understand but others, like kuusj for pig and sjokel for swing are very different from Dutch. 'Limburgish is still the first language in many Limburg families,' said regional language expert Ton van de Wijngaard, who advises the provincial government. 'But once they go to play groups, children only hear Dutch... and then they don't want to talk Limburgish at home any more.' The province has published a new policy document which states the language is a very important part of Limburg's cultural heritage and should be given a more prominent place in education. The province is also planning to develop special lessons on Limburgish for use in both primary and secondary schools. The province's culture director Ger Koopmans told the paper he is 'charmed' by the plan. 'This is an important step in keeping Limburgish alive,' he said. More details about the plans will be released in the coming months. Limburgish has been recognised as an official regional language in the Netherlands since 1997. According to the Limburgish Academy Foundation Limburgish also has its own written tradition, which dates back to at least 900 AD and some of Europe’s most highly regarded literature came from Limburg between the 11th and 14th centuries.   More >

Real threat of water shortages in NL

With no end to the drought in sight, the country's water boards say there is now the real threat of a water shortage over most of the country. The demand for water will remain 'very high' in the coming days and pumps are being used to keep water levels up to scratch. Salt levels in some western parts have now risen so much that extra sweet water is being brought in. This, water board officials say, is necessary to protect both farmers and vulnerable parts of the countryside. The main cause, according to the transport ministry's water department, is falling water levels in the river Rhine, which is used to keep Dutch water supplies topped up. Although the drop has not yet had an impact on inland shipping, this could be an issue if the drought continues, the ministry said. Weather forecasters say there is very little chance of any rain falling over the next two weeks. The Dutch dunes are a source of drinking water  More >