PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen voted 'yes' on Thursday. Photo: Nils Meilvang/Scanpix
A referendum day poll released on Thursday showed that Danes are leaning toward voting to maintain their EU opt-out on justice and home affairs but the large number of undecided voters could swing the vote either way.
In the Megafon poll, 42.9 percent of respondents said they would vote 'no' in the referendum to scrap the opt-out while 39.7 percent said they would vote ‘yes’ to replacing the opt-out with an opt-in model.
A full 17.4 percent were still undecided on election day.
Megafon’s director Asger H. Nielsen compared the situation to an impending birth.
“To be honest, we can’t yet say if it will be a boy or a girl. That’s how unsure we are,” Nielsen told TV2.
Uncertainty has made the election outcome impossible to predict since PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen announced in August that he was moving the referendum to December so it wouldn’t interfere with the campaign for Britain's EU referendum, due to be held before 2017.
The referendum asks Danes to scrap Denmark’s opt-out on EU justice policies and replace it with an “a la carte” solution similar to that used by Britain and Ireland.
With a “yes”, the Scandinavian country would “opt in” to 22 legal acts covering subjects like Europol participation, European cybercrime, human trafficking, child pornography and fraud.
Europol, the intergovernmental European agency used in the fight against organized crime, trafficking and terrorism, is set to become a supranational agency — controlled by EU justice and home affairs ministers — meaning Denmark would have to leave the organization due to its opt-out.
The 'no' parties, however, argue that Denmark would be able to secure a parallel agreement allowing it to remain a part of the agency. The 'yes' side argues that such an agreement is not guaranteed and even if it can be done, a lengthy bureaucratic process could stretch out as long as five years and Denmark would have to remain on the sidelines until a deal was reached.
See also: Europol: What's in it for the Danes?
But rather than drop the opt-out altogether, the five ‘yes’ parties in parliament developed an ‘opt-in’ model in which they will take the parts of the EU legislation that they want and stay out of the areas in which they want Copenhagen to continue to set the town – most notably immigration and asylum policies, which will not be affected by referendum.
The ‘no’ camp – consisting of a somewhat unnatural alliance between the right-wing Danish People’s Party, the far-left Red-Green Alliance and the libertarian Liberal Alliance – have positioned the referendum of an issue of sovereignty and argue that if Danes vote to scrap the opt-out, Denmark will gradually be drawn in to more and more European policies because the arrangement will allow the Danish parliament to approve new adoption of EU rules by a simple majority.
Voting began Thursday morning at 9am and concludes at 8pm.