Report by Arend Dikkers on the Annual Members’ Dinner at the Reform Club on 18 November at 7 for 7.45pm, ‘carriages’ at ca. 10.15
Guest of Honour, Her Excellency Ms Joanna Roper CMG, British ambassador to The Netherlands, spoke on “Bilateral relations between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, from a British perspective”.
Where else will one find on a November night an event honoured by the presence of not just one, but two ambassadors of neighbouring countries other than at the Anglo-Netherlands Society’s Annual Members Dinner at the stately Reform Club on Pall Mall?
Council Chairman Dick van den Broek graciously welcomed members at the entrance to the, perhaps not so aptly named for this evening, “Strangers Room”. He recounted the first time he had arranged for bitterballen to be served at the Club, with special permission: “I had to tell them exactly how to cook them in order to stay firm…”
Immediately noticeable was the wide range of age groups happily chatting away over a glass of wine or beer. Clearly, a testimony to the huge interest in the Society’s activities and the popularity of this particular annual dinner.
Ushered upstairs for the meal, one enjoys the ornate, classical Italian saloon and the monumental staircase. It becomes easy to imagine actually being in the Palazzo Farnese, which inspired the front façade of the Club in the 1830s.
The gold leafed Library is a lovely setting for this dinner and speeches. Robert Brooke, former chair of the Society commenced with the Grace, followed by a brief word of welcome by the Chairman before the courses were efficiently and imperceptibly served by the Club’s staff.
The composition of tables, as always, demonstrated the wide geographic reach of our Society. Ours was, to paraphrase the title of that famous film: “Dutch in London”, “British in London”, “Dutch in London & Holland” (yes, the province), “Dutch in Switzerland” and “An American in London.”
At the main table, of course, the Chairman of the Society and hosts, Dick and Victoria van den Broek, as well as the President, the Rt Hon the Lord Taylor of Holbeach and Lady Taylor. Sir Michael Perry GBE and Lady Perry completed the ANS party. Guests of honour were Her Excellency Ms Joanna Roper CMG, British Ambassador to The Netherlands and her spouse, Thomas Drew CMG, Director General, Defence and Intelligence at the FCDO. Joining them was His Excellency Karel van Oosterom, Netherlands Ambassador to the U.K. and his spouse Anna, also honourable guests.
Over coffee with chocolates, as Dick said with typical Dutch frugality, “Chocolates purchased tax-free at Schiphol” before he invited the British Ambassador to deliver her address. In a brief eulogy of the late Queen Elizabeth II, she highlighted the great contribution Her late Majesty had made to the close relationship between both countries.
As to current status, the British Ambassador noted that two days before Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Netherlands Wopke Hoekstra met with U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly for the inaugural UK-Netherlands Strategic Dialogue in the margins of the North Sea Neighbours bilateral conference. This was the first such meeting since the U.K. left the European Union and indeed in that context the countries are “working together ever more closely”.
The Ambassador further touched on several areas of cooperation between the nations, including British-Netherlands training to Ukrainian armed forces, the size of our trading relationship, shared values such as human rights, the condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the International Court of Justice and issues like the recent Dutch court verdict in the trial of the downing of MH17. On the environment, Ms Roper praised The Netherlands’ commitment to emission reductions by 2025 citing Dutch expertise in sustainable transport. Last but not least, the Ambassador celebrated the vibrancy and variety of interaction between the two peoples.
Lord Taylor responded briefly to the speech of Ambassador Roper. With a “goedeavond” he greeted all. Reminding us of the 102 years since ANS founding, it remains an outstanding example of friendship and enduring bonds between these North Sea neighbours far above the “mutual love for cheese and not being made of sugar (Niet van suiker gemaakt). The toast was “to The King” and “to The King of the Netherlands”; a new era with a King in both countries, not seen since the 1800’s.
Questions from Members covered a wide range of subjects such as the level of cooperation of the armed forces, crime, education exchanges and the effects of the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. The Ambassador ended this session with a light-hearted comment about buying a raincoat for her bike. A good ending to her presentation.
With Dutch punctuality, the formal proceedings finished at 22:15. All that was left for Dick was to thank the guest of honour and give his favourite book as a token. The Council Chairman had cleverly set us up: he presented “Britannia; 100 documents that shaped a nation.” In Anglo-Dutch relations, he handily pointed out on page 168 the “Immortal Seven letter to William of Orange” of 1688, the prelude to the Glorious Revolution. In his closing remarks, he called for a more friendly revolution: that of the younger generations getting opportunities to increase communication and co-operation between the countries. He called for more university exchanges, more trips for youngsters to the other country and eventually for them to take up the mantle of working towards solutions on the climate crisis and diminishing the threat of nuclear weapons.
In all, it was a typical, good spirited Anglo-Dutch evening with bitterballen, beer, wine and soft drinks, a gezellig dinner and a frank exchange of ideas.
Looking forward to the next one in 2023.
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From the announcement in the November 2022 e-news :
Our popular annual dinner will take place on Friday 18 November in the beautiful
surroundings of the Reform Club on Pall Mall, London. Our guest speaker this
year will be H.E. Joanna Roper CMG, British Ambassador to the Kingdom of
the Netherlands. The dinner is now fully booked, but in case you still have a
definite interest in attending, please contact the Administrator soonest and we
will see what can be arranged. Cost £105 p.p. all inclusive.