Dutch politician warns EU against "seeking revenge" against UK for Brexit

Geert Wilders says people are "fed up with playing political games"

Brexit, EU, revenge, Geert Wilders, sentiment, Nexit, Britain, EU leaders,

Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, leaves a polling station after casting his vote in The Hague, Netherlands in May 2014 | Image: Phil Nijhuis / AP/Press Association Images

A controversial far-right politician in the Netherlands has warned EU leaders that "punishing" the UK for Brexit will damage the EU more than Britain.

It comes ahead of a crucial summit in Brussels where discussions about how to handle Britain's departure from the EU will get under way.

In an interview with Sky News, Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration Freedom Party, said "the europhiles were beaten by the British people, I hope that they are not seeking revenge".

"I think that will not happen because they will hurt themselves maybe even more than they will hurt Britain," said Mr. Wilders.

"It's a big economy, the third trading partner with countries like Germany and France - if you punish them you punish yourself, and the people are fed up with playing political games."

His comments reflect the dilemma, and division, that will be at the heart of the discussions in Brussels in the coming days.

Those who prioritise preventing Brexit contagion, will likely advocate taking tough steps that could act as a deterrent to anti-EU sentiment elsewhere - such as in France, Italy and Austria - by demonstrating that "out means out".

"Time for a Dutch referendum"

But others have indicated they favour a more negotiated approach, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel warning against hasty actions, saying there was "no need to be particularly nasty in any way".

Mr Wilders was one of the first to celebrate the Brexit vote when the result became clear last Friday.

In a post on twitter he said: "Hurrah for the British! Now it is our turn. Time for a Dutch referendum."

The demand for a so-called "Nexit" referendum will be a central plank of his party's campaign ahead of a general election in the Netherlands next year.

Current polling suggests the Freedom Party could win the largest number of seats, even though it would be unlikely to be part of a government due to other parties ruling out a coalition with Mr Wilders.

But pro-EU politicians in the Netherlands have claimed the chaotic fallout since the results of the British referendum may already be changing opinions.

"It's not good, obviously as we can already see, for stability in the UK," said former ambassador and Dutch Labour Party MP, Marit Maij.

She added: "It's not good for the Netherlands, and it's not good for Europe. We think a referendum like this in the Netherlands would bring a lot of insecurity."

She said the impetus was now on Britain to set out what Brexit will look like, and for the EU to focus more on proving to voters around Europe that it can be reformed to serve them better.

A poll published on Sunday by peil.nl found that while 50% of Dutch voters currently favour a referendum, compared to 47% who do not, a narrow majority of people would vote to stay in the EU if a vote was ever held.