Five reasons Denmark should want Britain to stay in the EU

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Five reasons Denmark should want Britain to stay in the EU
David Cameron (L) and Lars Løkke Rasmussen, prime ministers of Britain and Denmark. Photo: Mathias Løvgreen Bojesen/Scanpix

On June 23rd, Brits go to the polls to decide whether to be the first country to leave the European Union after 44 years of membership. With Denmark itself no stranger to Euroscepticism, The Local takes a look at five reasons Danes might hope ‘Brexit’ fails to materialise.


This summer, the EU could lose a nation of bacon-loving, football-playing dreary weather sufferers, when Britain votes on whether to remain a member of the EU. But apart from their shared affinity for pork, soccer and rain, why should Danes care about the spectre of the so-called ‘Brexit’? The Local examines five possible drawbacks of Brexit for Denmark and beyond.

1. It will spell trouble for the Danish economy

Britain, the world’s fifth largest economy, exports over 51 percent of its goods to other EU countries. Conversely, Britain is Denmark’s third largest import and export economy, with Denmark importing an average of around two billion kroner and exporting three billion kroner’s worth of goods every month, according to Statistics Denmark.

According to a study by think tank the Centre for European Reform, current British trade with the EU would have been 55 percent lower if the country had never joined the bloc, spelling trouble for Danish and broader EU economies alike. While Britain, in the event of leaving the union, would be keen to retain its access to the single market, the EU would be unlikely to accept this without some concessions – for example, the UK continuing to allow free movement for all EU citizens. This would not be accepted by pro-Brexit politicians for whom better immigration control is one of the cornerstone aims of leaving the union. The logical result is poorer trade relations between Britain and rest of the EU – including Denmark.

2. The Danish krone could crash

An EU exit for sterling could also spell trouble for Denmark's krone. Photo: Colourbox

Back in 2000, Danes voted to keep their traditional currency, the krone, and thereby rejected the new euro in one of the closest referenda in history. The decision has been more or less vindicated in subsequent years, with the krone retaining its value and Denmark’s imports and exports remaining competitive.

Should Britain – which also chose to keep the pound and has never been close to accepting the euro – leave the EU, the prospects of the krone are likely to be affected. The Copenhagen-based Think Tank Europa stated in May 2015 that EU members such as Denmark are likely to suffer should Britain – the strongest voice against marginalisation of the non-euro countries within the union – leave, enabling financial and economic policy within the Eurogroup alone to play a stronger role.

3. If it all goes wrong, other countries might point the finger at Denmark

In December 2015, with Brexit still ostensibly somewhere over the horizon, Denmark held an EU referendum of its own. Danes convincingly rejected a plan to replace its opt-out on EU justice and home affairs with an 'opt-in' model – a resounding rejection of giving sovereignty to the EU in favour of negotiating benefits on Denmark’s own terms.

See also: Five burning questions after Denmark's EU 'no'

Should Britain vote to leave the EU – hereby rejecting the agreements regarding social welfare payments thrashed out between David Cameron and the EU last month – it will look to negotiate a range of new relationships with the EU. Everything from import tariffs to immigration rules to free movement will have to be set out on new terms.

The Danish vote showed that there is popular support – in Denmark at least – for this type of parallel negotiation between the EU and individual countries, which is encouraging for anti-EU campaigners in the UK. Should Brexit have the expected consequence of an economically and diplomatically weaker EU, the Danish referendum outcome may be seen in hindsight as a turning point for EU solidarity.

4. A weaker EU means a less secure Denmark

For all their political sabre-rattling about border control and jewellery confiscation, the attempts by Danish politicians to stem the flow of immigrants into the country have had little real effect apart from sending a strong message about the attitudes of the politicians themselves.

The relation between refugees and security is in itself a subject that should be treated critically, and security is not the only reason cited by the government for its anti-immigration stance. Nevertheless, one thing is for certain – an EU without Britain is far less secure in international diplomacy, which has potential consequences for Denmark domestically.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is known to favour a British EU withdrawal. Photo: SPUTNIK/Scanpix

Britain, a permanent member of the UN Security Council and G7, still has a strong enough voice in international politics for the likes of Russia and the United States to take note of the European Union. With both the Syrian War and an increasingly aggressive Russia sitting right on its doorstep, the EU needs to be as strong and united as possible. For a small country like Denmark, a strong economic and political alliance with Britain is likely to have a significant long-term effect on domestic security and international influence.

5. Tourism and travel

It is conceivable that a Britain frozen outside of the EU may end up forcing visa requirements on visitors from the European mainland. While this is unlikely – other Western non-EU countries like the United States, Canada and Australia do not require EU citizens to have visas – it is possible that the fall-out of an acrimonious Brexit could lead to the type of travel restrictions not seen in Western Europe for decades.

Should, for example, Britain request free movement for its citizens in Western Europe but deny this to nationals of Eastern European member states, an unlikely, but possible, outcome is visa requirements and work permits being introduced in both directions, making Britain far less accessible to Danish students, tourists and professionals.


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