Dutch prime minister: Britain has 'dropped the vase' over Brexit

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte

Britain's politicians and people have "dropped the vase" over Brexit and left the country in chaos, one of Theresa May's closest EU allies has said.

In an open letter to Dutch voters, Netherlands prime minister Mark Rutte compared the UK to a fragile vase and warned that it could "easily break".

He held up the UK as an example of what happens if people refuse to compromise and work together for the common good.

The full-page ad in the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper marked the start of campaigning for upcoming provincial elections in the Netherlands, in which Rutte's centre-right VVD faces a challenge from populist parties including the PVV led by Geert Wilders.

Addressing his letter to "Dear Netherlanders", Rutte characterised their country as a place which "isn't perfect but where we do make progress".

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Preserving the common good requires compromises from all sides and a willingness from citizens not only to seek a good life for themselves, but also to contribute to the happiness of others, he said.

He warned of forces within Dutch society who rejected compromise and were "gripping the vase so tightly that it breaks".

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He compared politicians who stir up division to "screaming sideline football dads" shouting loudly without thinking about the consequences.

Britain's recent history was a cautionary tale of politicians and people losing sight of what was good about their country and allowing it to be broken, he said.

"We have seen examples of societies where they dropped the vase," wrote Rutte.

"Look at Great Britain. The politicians and residents have forgotten what they achieved together. Now they are in chaos."

The Netherlands is one of the UK's most important trading partners, and Rutte has been generally supportive of Mrs May's efforts to achieve a withdrawal deal with the EU.

The Hague was the prime minister's first stop on a whistle-stop tour of EU capitals on Tuesday last week as she sought reassurances which could help her get her Brexit deal through the House of Commons.

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