Members’ Dinner – 2021

From the announcement in the November 2021 e-news :

We are pleased to announce that in our series of annual dinners, we are organising another Members’ dinner on Friday 26th November in the Reform Club and are delighted to have as guest speaker H.E. Mr. Karel van Oosterom, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Court of St. James’s.

The title of the Ambassador’s presentation will be: “Bilateral relations between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.” Cost: £92.50 p.p. all inclusive.

As we received a few cancellations, there are now places available again for this popular event, please contact the administrator to indicate your interest.

= = =

From the report in the Winter 2021-21 printed edition of the Newsletter :

“Let all strangers who come to London for business, or pleasure, or curiosity, or for whatever cause, not fail to visit the Reform Club. In an age of utilitarianism, and of the search for the comfortable, like ours, there is more to be learned here than in the ruins of the Coliseum, of the Parthenon, or of Memphis.” Attributed to Viscountess de Malleville in the 19th century journal “Courrier de l’Europe”.

After two years of Covid-19 restrictions, and following the UK leaving the EU, it was again fitting that the Anglo-Netherlands Society resumed normal business by holding its annual Members’ dinner, as has been customary for some years, at the Reform Club, London, the cradle of liberalism and pan European ideals.

Hosted as ever so admirably by Chairman Dick van den Broek, to whom the Members of the Society are as ever indebted for his efficient organisation, the dinner with pre-dinner drinks and bitterballen in the historic setting of the Morning Room, followed by a sumptuous two-course meal in the Library and then a sweet course or pudding provided by the guest speaker, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, H.E. Karel J.G. van Oosterom. This was for many Members the first time to meet the Ambassador in person although the writer of this report had had many virtual meetings since the Ambassador arrived last year.

With so many challenges facing the world: from climate change to political and economic uncertainty evidenced by the tensions with Russia and China and the increasing waves of asylum seekers and over the weekend the further restrictions to combat the new Covid-19 variants, it was timely to be reminded of the strength of the Anglo-Dutch relationship and despite the barriers of Brexit, the shared values and aspirations we have as North Sea Neighbours.

As Queen Elizabeth proclaimed in 1565 when welcoming the Dutch Strangers to Norwich, they represented “England’s most ancient and familiar neighbours”. Nearly 500 years later those sentiments still hold true. The Dutch Embassy in the UK, complemented by various Anglo-Dutch societies, including in particular the Anglo-Netherlands Society, is committed to these relations today, serving some 150,000 Dutch citizens in the UK, Dutch companies as well as Dutch civil servants.

Despite the UK leaving the EU and perhaps even more so today, the emphasis of the work of the Dutch Embassy in the UK and of the Honorary Consuls in the regions is to maintain and enhance the close relations the two nations have built up over many centuries. I, as the Hon Consul in Norwich for East Anglia, was privileged to be reappointed for a further term of five years by the King of the Netherlands. As Lord Burghley, Queen Elizabeth I’s trusted adviser said of Anglo-Dutch relations: ”The one cannot live well without the friendship of the other”.

The evening marked a special and worthy tribute being paid to the outgoing President and his wife; Sir Michael and Lady Perry have selflessly provided more than twenty years of service, wise counsel, and stewardship helping to foster Anglo-Dutch links and continuing a long tradition of service based on Sir Michael’s long experience working for Unilever both in the Netherlands, UK and elsewhere in the world.

It was also an opportunity to welcome as the new President Lord Taylor of Holbeach, who reminded Members of his family company’s long links with the Netherlands. His company, based in South Holland, Lincolnshire, growing bulbs in a region drained by the Dutch and selling back to the Dutch bulbs grown in the golden soils of the Fens!

For Members attending the dinner, it was a great opportunity to reconnect in person after the past two years. The Society and its Members, who might not have started off being IT savvy, are now all past masters using Zoom and other virtual means of connecting and the Events Committee are to be congratulated on the excellent series of events, virtual visits, talks and other interactions. However, as the dinner showed, there is no substitute for being able to meet in person and share social gossip or meet new friends over an excellent dinner for which the Reform Club is so highly regarded.

The Ambassador spoke about his role, as well as the team at the Embassy, in continuing strengthening the Anglo-Dutch links. He warmly welcomed Lucy Ferguson, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in The Hague, and talked of the many ways the two Embassies and staff communicate, even on a daily basis, to resolve issues of common interest, but also to foster the North Sea links. In the past year, both Embassies have had turbulent times in which Brexit and Covid-19 dominated. Since the EU-UK Trade and Association Agreement came into force on 1 January 2021, the Ambassador and his team have worked to inform stakeholders, to implement the Agreement, to provide input to colleagues in The Hague and Brussels in the light of the EU-UK Partnership Council and other new committees, to identify possible gaps in the Agreement that need bilateral action, and to invest in the future relationship between the Netherlands and the UK.
Coming from his previous role as the Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations in New York, the Ambassador noted the cultural and language differences between the British and Dutch. As an example, he noted the British are too polite to be honest and the Dutch are too honest to be polite.

Despite those differences and because of our shared heritage and culture, the Ambassador emphasised the importance of the work of the Embassy and civil society organisations in fostering and maintaining the links as North Sea neighbours. He underlined the UK has always been and will remain a close partner of the Netherlands as both our countries are transatlantic-minded and are like-minded democracies. As Honorary Consul in Norwich, where we have a strong sense of these historic as well as geographical ties (in 17th century Norwich, a third of the city were Dutch speakers), my role as one of the Consuls in the UK and with the help of the Embassy is that of economic diplomacy. Brexit and the increased burdens caused by customs and other regulatory issues coming at a time of travel restrictions caused by Covid-19, have created hurdles for many Dutch and British businesses to overcome, but there is much still to celebrate with new Dutch investment in various business sectors.

The Ambassador also highlighted the cultural sector in which connections continue to be made, despite the new context in which the UK and the Netherlands are shaping their relations. He spoke of the new Frans Hals exhibition in the Wallace Collection, the Scheepvaart Museum in Amsterdam displaying centuries of maritime cooperation, and the Dulwich Picture Gallery where Rembrandt’s “Girl at a Window” is on display.

The Ambassador ended his speech by underlining the importance of our vibrant civil societies in the bilateral relationship between the UK and the Netherlands post-Brexit. In this regard he applauded the activities of the Anglo-Netherlands Society which has been and no doubt will remain at the centre of the Anglo-Dutch relationship.
Members had a number of questions for the Ambassador, who had spoken privately under the Chatham House rule. Topics included fishing and migration issues (more to do with EU rules than Anglo-Dutch connections) and flood defences in East Anglia, where the Dutch can help directly from their own experiences. Members were reminded of the Dutch engineers who had built the large sandscaping defence off Bacton in Norfolk to protect the gas pipelines which bring into the UK gas from local North Sea and continental Europe sources.

The Ambassador also reminded us of the work that goes on a daily basis below the headlines as it were, the co-operation between the two Countries’ navies and security forces as well as investment advice and support for business.
In thanking the Ambassador, Lord Taylor as President, noted the value of working together and finding solutions to common problems such as supply chains and despite Brexit to adopt a pragmatic approach.

In concluding the evening’s formal part, the Chairman presented the Ambassador with a book illustrating the Anglo-Dutch links, especially in 1688 and the Glorious Revolution, which it might be argued imbued a sense of liberal thinking and radicalism which later in the nineteenth century brought about the formation of the Reform Club. Afterwards members mingled for a while before heading home to reflect on these remarks and help foster Anglo-Dutch relations after a very successful and enjoyable dinner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.