Amsterdam: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Monday he hoped British voters would decide in a June 23 referendum to stay in the EU, saying the bloc needed such a strategically important country with its strong trading and "seafaring" traditions.
The chances that Britain will vote to leave the EU increased sharply on Monday to 36 per cent, the highest level since the British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the referendum four months ago, according to betting odds.
"Britain is a free market economy facing outward, just like the Netherlands.
We are both seafaring nations, used to trading and working with open borders.
It's of importance that a country with that kind of makeup remain," said Rutte, whose country holds the European Union's rotating presidency.
"We see a lot of instability in the world. If one of the largest economies in the world from Europe leaves, that would lead to a lot of popping champagne corks in many capital cities outside Europe. I don't want that," said Rutte, speaking on the sidelines of an event in The Hague.
A study published last week by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) found that a Brexit would reduce Dutch GDP by 1.2 per cent by 2030 due to lost trade.
Rutte, one of Cameron's closest allies in the EU, also said he was "totally" against the concept of holding national referenda after his country passed a law last year making it easier for Dutch citizens to launch such popular votes.
Anti-EU activists promptly gathered enough signatures to force a national vote on an EU treaty for closer ties with Ukraine.
Dutch voters rejected the treaty in an April referendum.
That rejection has given Rutte's centre-right government a big headache as the treaty had already been negotiated and approved by all 28 EU member states -- including by both houses of the Dutch parliament.
"I am totally against referenda.
And I am totally, totally, totally against referenda on multilateral agreements," Rutte told a meeting with EU lawmakers in The Hague.
Rutte has said his government will need time to figure out how to honour the outcome of the Ukraine treaty referendum, perhaps by negotiating an exemption to parts.
The Dutch cabinet is widely expected to present its plan only after the British referendum.