LONDON — Britain has spent more than two years negotiating the minutiae of its departure from the European Union. Its politicians have engaged in countless hours of debate over what a deal to leave the bloc would look like.
But did anyone ever stop to consider that the process known as Brexit would need a mascot?
Leave it to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to answer the question that no one has asked.
Brexit, it has decided, is a fluffy blue monster with an oversize head, blue eyes, black pants and a white T-shirt emblazoned with the word “Brexit” in red.
The Dutch minister of foreign affairs, Stef Blok, shared a photograph on Twitter on Thursday of him standing in an office with a confused expression and throwing his arms up as the Brexit monster relaxed on a desk in front of him.
The mascot was immediately christened the “Brexit Muppet” by social media users.
The label also drew a wry collective sniff from Britons for whom the term “muppet” is a mild insult.
The blue Brexit monster is apparently the distillation of Dutch fears of the unknown as a no-deal exit seems more likely. The prospect of Britain crashing out of the bloc has alarmed many member states, including the Netherlands.
The monster is part of the Dutch government’s “Brexit Loket,” which roughly translates to Brexit information desk, a hub of business resources to avoid having “Brexit get in your way,” according to the campaign’s tagline.
The Netherlands concluded that the furry monster was the best way to warn its businesses that operate in the United Kingdom about the potential impact of Britain’s departure from the customs union.
“Brexit is not only on the desk of the Dutch minister, but it is something that everybody has to deal with,” said Dirk-Jan Vermeij, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “It is essential that entrepreneurs prepare for all Brexit scenarios, including no-deal.”
The Netherlands is clearly trying to allay any concern about how its companies will be affected by Britain’s divorce from the trading bloc: The country is one of Britain’s top trading partners, and the Dutch economy could lose out on 10 billion euros, or $11.3 billion, worth of trade because of Brexit, according to the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
“In terms of the countries exposed to Brexit, the Netherlands is one of the biggest,” John Springford, deputy director of the Center for European Reform in London, said on Thursday by phone.
“No-deal Brexit would be the largest hit, but all of the different scenarios are going to entail some sort of economic cost,” he added.
In spite of the warnings the Netherlands issued to its businesses over the possible negative impact of Britain’s departure from the European Union, the Dutch are also positioning themselves to benefit from it.
The Dutch government has been selling itself as an alternative for firms based in Britain that are looking to keep their operations in the trading bloc, and it recently boasted that it was in talks with 250 companies about moving.
Britain, for its part, is steeling itself for the loss of some international business as one consequence of Brexit.
Supporters of Brexit have dismissed such warnings as “scaremongering.”
Though odd, the Brexit monster was a hit on social media, with one person tweeting: “Omg this really is for real. A Brexit Muppet. Lordy I love the Dutch.”