I spent the week-end in the Netherlands. It was a pleasure to visit the EU now we have decided to leave. I no longer went fearing I would need to explain why we are dragging heels on joining the Euro, not accepting Schengen and not joining them in their political union. I would have no more self imposed moral obligation to state if asked why I thought the Euro scheme was a prime generator of mass unemployment and political tensions. Now we are leaving we are no longer to blame for anything that goes wrong, no longer under some requirement to try and argue for a different route, no longer having to try to stop all sorts of changes we do not want which we judge to be against Europe’s wider interest. As good visitors we should wish them well and regard these things as their matters.
So I was relaxed and able to enjoy the continent more than when we were committed. Even better news was I found my Dutch hosts were great. They treated me as a friend, ally and of course as a valued customer. No-one mentioned Brexit. They were all charming, keen to make my stay comfortable, and willing to share their culture and cuisine with a friendly neighbour. I saw if anything an improved relationship. This was a private visit as a tourist.
I also had some surprises. Throughout my stay I did not see a single twelve stars EU flag. I was ready for it. Once again, now we are leaving, the flag does not worry me. It used to, as it was for me a symbol of our loss of democratic self government. Now it is the flag of our continental friends. Its absence was curious. There were plenty of flags on display. They mainly proudly flew the Dutch flag from the public buildings, the tourist kiosks and the boats, interspersed with some City flags.
It was also curious in the museums I visited which traced the history of the Netherlands through into the present century I saw no mention of their commitment to the EU or the impact it was having on their lives. I am not drawing any conclusions from any of this. I am at a loss to know why it is so.
I did find their presentation of their national story fascinating, and will talk more of it tomorrow. The recently refurbished Rijks Museum is beautifully done, and provides a stylish backdrop to Rembrandt’s fine paintings and many other great works of art. The take away was we should get along fine once we have sorted out our new relationship with the EU.