Friday April 21, 2017
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Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands (centre) welcomes his counterparts, Denmark’s Lars Lokke Rasmussen (right) and Ireland’s Enda Kenny prior to a meeting in the Hague April 21, 2017. — Reuters picPrime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands (centre) welcomes his counterparts, Denmark’s Lars Lokke Rasmussen (right) and Ireland’s Enda Kenny prior to a meeting in the Hague April 21, 2017. — Reuters picTHE HAGUE, April 21 — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was today to meet his Irish and Danish counterparts as the three northern European countries grapple with the likely fallout from Britain’s divorce from the EU.

Rutte was hosting Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and his Danish counterpart Lars Lokke Rasmussen over lunch for “informal talks,” his office said.

The three men would “discuss current European issues, including Brexit” as part of a series of meetings Rutte plans with various European countries to “gain a deep insight into areas of mutual interest”.

Denmark, Ireland and The Netherlands are all heavily dependent on trade with Britain.

A Dutch government think-tank warned last year before Britain’s referendum that Brexit could cost The Netherlands a 1.2 per cent fall in GDP by 2030 and a €10-billion (RM47-billion) trade loss.

Rasmussen said the three northern nations “have many common interests in the issues on the EU’s agenda” but “above all Brexit, which will have consequences for us as well as for Britain”.

“Therefore it makes sense that we should discuss together how we safeguard our interests and get a divorce that is as smooth as possible,” he added in a statement before the talks.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Wednesday the “real political” negotiations on Brexit will start after Britain’s snap June 8 elections.

But the EU has rejected British Prime Minister Theresa May’s call for talks on the terms of the divorce and on a future trade deal to be held in parallel.

Concerns that the tough trade negotiations could be relegated to second place and potentially butt up against the two-year deadline for a deal have sent alarm bells ringing in some countries.

Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said in a speech yesterday that “we know that Brexit will have a disproportionately large impact on our economy”.

“And we know that achieving the closest possible trading relationship between the EU and the UK in the future will be a crucial mitigating factor in this regard.” — AFP

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