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Brexit, Trump, Populism and Royal Dutch Shell Plc

By John Donovan (right)

Brexit and Trump are the most visible current manifestations of populism – examples of ground-breaking nationalist movements backed by a large proportion of a voting population.

Populism is on the rise in a number of EU countries including Germany, France and the Netherlands, where there is mounting concern over PVV leader Geert Wilders.

What is described as “encroaching populism and negativism” is apparently viewed as a serious threat by Dutch multinationals, including Shell, Philips and Unilever.

According to an article published this weekend by the Dutch financial daily paper Het Financieele Dagblad the relevant multinationals have joined forces in “a bid to roll back gloom and populism”.

Extract from a related article: Dutch Firms Shell, Unilever, Philips Launch Anti-Populism Campaign as Wilders Rides High in Opinion Polling:

The initiative coincides with the runup to general elections that are seen as a bellwether for nationalism in Europe in a critical year following last year’s Brexit vote and the victory of Donald Trump.

According to the article, the companies want to get the genie back in the bottle again by offering a positive alternative. “To counteract populism, we need a new business model, a dot on the horizon that we can work towards in the coming decades said Jan Zijderveld, CEO Europe at Unilever.

Shell CEO Ben van Beurden has already expressed Shell’s concern about the consequences of the UK’s departure from the EU – Shell boss warns of a Brexit fallout.

The question arises, is it wise for Shell (and other Dutch multinational businesses) to intervene in political matters?

What happens if President Trump hears about Shell’s intervention, bearing in mind that the USA is Shell’s most important market?

Royal Dutch Shell may end up being perceived as an enemy of the many tens of millions who voted for these popular nationalistic policies, instead of the failed liberal/progressive alternative.


New York Times: Angela Merkel, Squeezed by Far Right, Now Faces a Rising Left: 12 Feb 2017


Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States — have profoundly shaken Germany…

Germany is now regarded as a critical pillar in upholding the liberal Western order…

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