Dutch politician puts case for Europe exit

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — In a foretaste of his campaign for European parliamentary elections in May, Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders is making his case that the Netherlands would be better off leaving the European Union.

He claimed Thursday a "NExit" — Netherlands exit from both the European Union and euro currency zone — would add nearly 10,000 euros ($13,000) to GDP per capita over two decades.

Wilders' views on leaving the European Union have so far gained little traction in the Netherlands. However, personally he is riding high in opinion polls, with some showing him with more support than the two parties in the current centrist ruling coalition combined.

At a press conference, Wilders presented a study that concluded there would be significant positive economic effects from learning the EU. The study, which he commissioned from respected British think-tank Capital Economics, found that the Dutch economy would benefit in two ways.

First, because the Dutch would not contribute to the EU budget. On a per-capita basis, the Dutch contribute more than any other member.

Second, leaving the euro would enable the Dutch central bank to tailor monetary policy to better suit the country, Capital Economics analyst Mark Pragnell said.

"We think the Swiss option is viable for the Netherlands," Pragnell said, referring to Switzerland's good bilateral relations and trade with the European Union, even as it conducts its own monetary policy.

Wilders called the report's result "the best news for the Netherlands in years."

"It offers the Netherlands a way out of this crisis," he said.

Dutch GDP has scarcely grown since the start of the 2008 financial crisis, due in part to a sharp fall in housing prices, though most economists forecast a modest return to growth in 2014.

Unemployment is at around 7 percent and rising, and many Dutch are unhappy with the current government's austerity policies, after years of painful spending cuts and tax hikes.

In November Wilders and French far-right leader Marine Le Pen announced an international alliance of far-right European parties, intending to form a Euro-skeptic bloc in the European Parliament.

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