Labour MEP: Eurosceptic victory in Dutch referendum must be warning to British voters to turn out in June

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The 'no' vote on the EU association agreement with Ukraine, in preliminary results from yesterday's Dutch referendum, should be an urgent warning to voters to turn out in advance of Britain's own EU referendum, a senior Euro-MP warned today.

Richard Howitt MEP, Labour's European Parliament spokesperson on foreign affairs, says many Dutch voters chose not to participate either because they disagreed with holding a referendum or deliberately wanted to suppress the turnout to avoid the minimum threshold being reached, and that British voters must learn the lesson that unless they take part, extremists can win.

Mr Howitt, who is in The Hague, said:

"British voters should see how UKIP have been happy to directly intervene in the Dutch campaign on the same side as the Far Right, and how their dangerous sympathies with Vladimir Putin's Russia have been able to succeed.

"This referendum was never about vague concepts of European democracy or even enlargement, but about a specific agreement fairly negotiated by EU countries which supports democratic development in a neighbouring country which otherwise threatens to be a source of future conflict to us all.

"Dutch voters appear to have been apathetic or confused about the issues involved and many who support the EU chose to gamble on the minimum 30 per cent threshold not being reached, allowing the 'no' side to win on a low turnout - this is the lowest turnout ever on any referendum on the EU anywhere in Europe.

"The lessons for the British referendum must be that this vote has serious consequences, that not voting allows extremism to prosper, but that this time the country whose future is at stake isn't several time zones away but right here at home."

On the implications of the vote for the European Union, Mr Howitt added:

"The vote will call a halt on support of democratic development in a country which was escaping its Soviet past and gives a major fillip to today's Russian military expansionism.

"It is likely the Dutch government will seek to get a renegotiation of the agreement to explicitly rule out that it can be interpreted as a step towards future EU membership. This will make little practical difference but will question Europe's good faith in other negotiations and give an unwelcome boost to those who would break-up the EU altogether.

"The Dutch government chose not to fight the campaign vigorously and we have to understand that, in the fight against Euroscepticism, we are in a fight and we have to fight to win."

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