February 14, 2019 / 3:22 PM / 4 months ago

Didn't read the memo? Dutch brandish big blue Brexit monster

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok reacts as the "Brexit monster" spreads out on the desk at the Hague, Netherlands in this image obtained on Feburary 14, 2019. Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via REUTERS

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - With quiet government bureaucracy failing to motivate Dutch businesses to prepare for Britain’s planned departure from the European Union, Foreign Minister Stef Blok turned on Thursday to an unorthodox tactic: a big, blue Brexit monster.

Two weeks ago, the Dutch government sent an urgent letter to 70,000 companies that do business in Britain, warning them that time is running out to get ready for Brexit on March 29.

The response was tepid, so Blok on Thursday upped the stakes.

“Have you already checked how Brexit will impact your company?” the minister said in a tweet, encouraging readers to do an online impact test. He is seen standing at his desk, hands thrown in the air, with a giant, blue Muppet-like figure on his desk wearing a Brexit t-shirt.

For the Netherlands, a top global exporter and leading British trading partner, a no-deal Brexit without a transition period to cushion the shock and smooth trade could have disastrous implications.

A recent government poll showed that about 35,000 Dutch companies have no experience in customs procedures, while just 18 percent of businesses said they are ready for Brexit.

Nearly 950 customs officials are being hired in the Netherlands to handle the extra work arising from Britain’s EU exit, most of them at the port of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest, and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

The Netherlands expects to incur 2.3 billion euros (2 billion pounds) in direct costs by 2023 if, as seems possible, Britain leaves the EU next month without a transitional arrangement.

Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Catherine Evans

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