The price of saying ‘no’

The leaders of the VVD, CDA and PVV political parties negotiated in the Dutch Prime Minister’s official residence, ...

The leaders of the VVD, CDA and PVV political parties negotiated in the Dutch Prime Minister’s official residence, the Catshuis, for more than 7 weeks. The parties were discussing the continuation of their coalition with a new round of cutbacks totalling more than 18 million euros. After all, the parties agreed that the budget deficit needed to be reduced to 3 percent. Prime Minister Rutte had already promised the EU that the Netherlands would make this reduction.

Rumour has it that the parties were very close to agreement. Only the last details remained. The main outstanding issue was the way the plans were to be presented. The VVD and CDA negotiators indicated that the PVV had given the impression that the agreement was within reach. At the very last moment, the PVV negotiator suddenly decided that 3 percent was unacceptable after all. Negotiations were broken off. As a result, the Netherlands faces the threat of penalties and higher interest rates.

How would a court assess the breakdown of these negotiations from a legal perspective? If the VVD and the CDA had been citizens or companies, they could have taken the PVV to court. They could have claimed compensation for the loss suffered. The court could grant such a claim if it found that, having regard to the circumstances of the case, breaking off. How would a court assess the breakdown of these negotiations from a legal perspective? If the VVD and the CDA had been citizens or companies, they could have taken the PVV to court. They could have claimed compensation for the loss suffered.

The court could grant such a claim if it found that, having regard to the circumstances of the case, breaking off the negotiations was ‘unacceptable according to standards of reasonableness and fairness’. A key factor in such a decision is the expectations that the party who broke off talks had created among the other parties.

The fact is that the PVV negotiator agreed to the basic principles of the planned cutbacks and allowed his fellow negotiators to continue for more than 7 weeks under the delusion that agreement would be reached on the details as well. Politics has its own rules, but if such matters were dealt with by a court the PVV would very probably have to pay substantial compensation for breaking off negotiations in this way.