- How would you describe your time in London? Of which achievement are you most proud?
I look back on a marvellous posting in London. Over the past five years, we have experienced eventful times, in which history was and is being written. It was fantastic to be part of that.
It would be impossible to point at one single achievement. In the end, it is about the bigger picture of maintaining and nurturing the excellent ties between our countries. It is about supporting trade, innovation, cultural exchanges, and addressing common challenges.
- How do you look back on the State Visit in 2018 with the Dutch King and Queen?
An official State Visit is something extremely special as it only takes place once in a few decades. To organise the State Visit was both an honour and a pleasure for myself and my team at the Embassy. It was a wonderful opportunity to reconfirm the centuries-long ties between our monarchies, but also to mark the many things that connect our countries, and what we have to offer one another.
- During your time in the UK, you have implemented rules to encourage diversity and gender diversity. For example, you only joined a panel if there were also women in the panel. How has this helped to create change?
Actions speak louder than words.
The Dutch have proudly been front-runners in promoting equality and diversity in every sense of the word. As a diplomatic mission, we have the responsibility not just to voice the importance of diversity but also to act accordingly.
Making a point can also help through making organisers stop and think: are they doing what they can to accurately reflect on society in their events and present an argument from different angles.
- Are you planning on continuing this in your new role as Ambassador for International Organizations at MFA in The Hague?
Diversity policy is a horizontal topic, it plays a role in the work of all of my colleagues around the world - be it in different ways. It will no doubt also be of relevance in my new position, aimed at making sure that the represented International Organisations can thrive in the Dutch context and value the Netherlands as the home base for their operations.
- With your extended experience, what do you see as the key growth driver for British-Dutch Business?
Our countries are close, both culturally and geographically; they have many innovative, creative solutions to offer that play an important role in the very integrated supply chains and production processes.
The fact that there is hardly a language barrier helps a great deal, even if we sometimes come across the odd miscommunication as a consequence of the use of Dutch-English. There is a very funny book titled “I always get my sin” that highlights some of the most common - and often humorous - mix-ups.
- What is your advice to our members when doing business with the UK?
Get to know the market, look beyond London, and get in touch with the Embassy or NBCC if there is anything we can help you with.
And of course, invest in building ties with your counterparts; be culturally curious and sensitive to truly understand each other. It will help you build your market share and pays off in so many other ways. NBCC and the broader range of Anglo-Dutch associations provide an excellent platform for that.
- What are your highlights as a Patron of the NBCC?
I have much appreciated the joint events and continued cooperation that embody the NL-UK trade relationship in these uncertain times. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many creative, innovative entrepreneurs that form the core of your membership.
- How is the NBCC helping businesses to grow their business?
NBCC, the British Embassy in the Hague, and the Dutch Embassy work closely together to provide information and a relevant network to those trading between the Netherlands and the UK. This is an important triangle of cooperation and information to assist and promote Anglo-Dutch business.
- What do you see as the main tasks of the NBCC in the nearby future?
Economic and logistical challenges related to the corona-crisis and the need to figure out how to trade under the new EU-UK relationship will give rise to many questions among businesses and entrepreneurs. NBCC has an important role in helping these businesses get on track, providing them with valuable information, and keeping in touch with all relevant counterparts to make it through these times as smoothly as possible. Of course, any situation will also bring with it opportunities for UK-NL trade, opportunities for cooperation and to learn from one another. Both our Embassies and the NBCCs will continue to be key resources for support and information in this.
- What are you most looking forward to when moving back to The Netherlands?
Even though the Netherlands is only a stone’s throw across the Channel, I am looking forward to being closer to my family and our friends.
- What are you going to miss most about London?
I will not just miss London, but the many things that the UK as a whole has to offer; the rich culture and history, as well as the weekend walks through the magnificent countryside.
And last but not least, I will miss the many contacts with all the remarkable British and Dutch entrepreneurs that I have met and have had the pleasure to work with over the past years.
One thing is clear, my wife Astrid and I will keep visiting this beautiful country.
I had the good fortune to be able to welcome the first direct Eurostar from Amsterdam to London some months ago, together with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. As soon as the Covid-19 situation allows it, I can’t wait to board that train myself!