The British government is trying to drum up Danish support for reforms to the European Union ahead of a UK referendum on EU membership which could come as soon as June 2016.
George Osborne is hoping to convince other European governments that the UK should be allowed to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the other 27 member states, before British voters are given the chance to decide whether to remain 'in or out' of the European Union.
His visit to Scandinavia is part of a wider tour of European capitals, which kicked off in Paris last month.
“This government has been given a very clear mandate to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the rest of the EU and to reform the EU so it works for all its citizens. We are determined to deliver a new settlement for Europe that works for everyone within it,” the finance minister was quoted as saying in a press release put out by the UK's Treasury just ahead of his trip.
“As part of that, our process of renegotiation must include engaging actively with our key partners in Europe and that’s why today’s meetings in Finland, Sweden and Denmark are so important,” he added.
In Copenhagen, Osborne is set to meet with Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Finance Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen. He also held talks with Finland’s Finance Minister Alexander Stubb and Foreign Minister Timo Soini on Sunday and will meet with Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson on Monday.
His press office said that the discussions would focus on three key issues for the UK's ruling Conservative Party – protecting the integrity of the single market and the rights of non-euro members as the euro area continues to integrate; working together to complete the European single market to deliver lasting benefits for citizens across the EU and expanding the EU’s external trade with the fastest growing economies.
Denmark’s own relationship with the EU will be put to the test when Danes vote on a referendum on replacing the nation’s opt-out on EU justice and home affairs with an ‘opt-in’ that would result in the adoption of 22 specific pieces of EU legislation. Rasmussen announced on Friday that the referendum will be held on December 3rd.
Ahead of the June 18th election that brought him to power, Rasmussen vowed to support Britain’s negotiations with the EU and pledged that Denmark would “work to ensure that the EU does not become a social union”.
In July, Ramussen's Venstre government was accused of flip-flopping on its 'social union' resistance by saying it would not seek to stop paying out quarterly parental benefits to EU citizens living in Denmark. A party spokesperson said that Venstre is still opposed to giving the benefit to EU citizens but no longer want to take the issue to the EU court system and will instead join with like-minded countries to push for comprehensive changes to how European countries pay out welfare benefits to non-citizens.