Five reasons Denmark should want Britain to stay in the EU

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.

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

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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How Brexit has changed life for Brits living in Denmark

Since Britain left the European Union, Brits living in Denmark have been deported, forced to change their jobs, and faced a long list of new bureaucratic hassles. Here are some of the problems our readers have highlighted.

How Brexit has changed life for Brits living in Denmark

EU figures out in January indicated that only about 40 Brits in Denmark had so far been ordered to leave the country as a result of Britain leaving the European Union, a fraction of the 1,050 ordered to leave Sweden. Some 350 Brits in Denmark missed the deadline for post-Brexit residency. 

But Brexit is still far from popular. A full 76 percent of the Britons in Denmark who responded to our survey said that Brexit had affected them either “quite” or “extremely” negatively (42.3 percent and 34.6 percent respectively).

Only one respondent said that their life had been very much improved. 

Here are some of the ways people said Brexit had made life less convenient and more expensive.  

Losing the right to stay in Denmark

William, an account manager based in Copenhagen, was deported from Denmark after failing to apply for post-Brexit residency in time and is even now trying to find out if the decision to deny him residency will be reversed and whether he might be entitled to compensation. 

The Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) failed to send letters to as many as 1,800 British people informing them of the deadline. 

“Siri failed to notify me of the requirement to update my status, I got deported and I experienced stress, anxiety and sickness due to the year-long application and appeals process,” he complained. 

Denmark’s immigration minister Kaare Dybvad Bek said last month that the roughly 350 British nationals who risk losing their right to live in Denmark after missing the deadline to apply for a post-Brexit residency permit would get a reprieve. Bek said on February 10th that his department would “present a solution soon”. 

READ ALSO: Britons told to leave Denmark over late residence applications could get reprieve

“Siri have not yet decided what they will do regarding making changes to finalised decisions that were affected by the rejection of appeal,” William said. 

For another British woman living in Copenhagen, Brexit means her UK-based husband can only visit her in Denmark for three months in every six month period, with his passport getting stamped every time. 

“It’s usually enough, but if we wanted to visit France for a month that would count too,” she said. 

Having to handle a work, residency, or study permit 

Brits not eligible for post-Brexit residency now need to apply for a work permit, family reunion, or study permit to get residency in Denmark, which several of those answering the survey complained was difficult, costly and involved long delays. 

“This is so annoying,” wrote one reader, who works in the pharmaceuticals industry. Registering for post-Brexit residency had been “a hassle”, agreed a music industry professional.

A 50-year-old woman from Scotland who married a Dane post-Brexit said her application for residency to come and live with him had been rejected on the first attempt, and that she had been so far unable to find a job. 

“For two years, I’ve been living an uncertain life worrying about the future,” she said. 

Susan, 41, said she found it frustrating not to be able to bring family members from the UK to live with her in Denmark. 

READ ALSO: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

Extra hassle getting personal number or bank account

Hannah said that it had taken significantly longer for her to get a Danish personal number (CPR) than it had for her Swedish husband and children. 

“Getting CPR, bank accounts etc took a lot longer than rest of family, who are Swedish,” she complained, adding that she was as a result applying for Swedish citizenship. 

Unable to get a long-term lease on a car or a monthly mobile phone contract 

The pharmaceuticals industry professional blamed Brexit for his inability to get a car through private leasing, although one major car manufacturer told The Local that all that was required was to have a registered address in Denmark, a Danish social security number, and a good enough credit rating.  

“I tried several private long-term leasing companies, but they simply told me that they couldn’t lease a car even though I work for a big pharmaceutical company with a permanent position,” he said. “The main problem is my work permit is of type J. If you leave the EU with the car, they wouldn’t know where to find you. Even if they knew when I was, the cost of prosecuting someone in a non-European country is too high.”

He also complained that he had been unable to get a monthly contract from his mobile phone provider meaning he could not upgrade to the new iPhone.

Problems keeping business going 

David Darlington, 58, closed down his import and distribution company Food From Home after more than 18 years after Brexit, as it became too difficult to import British goods to Scandinavia. 

“One of the reasons I lost my business was because of Brexshit,” he wrote in the survey. 

Problems with post and customs charges 

Almost everyone who answered the survey complained of the way Brexit had made sending and receiving post and parcels more difficult. 

“I had to produce receipts for Easter eggs which my dad had sent to my children. The supermarket receipt wasn’t good enough and in the end I told them to return the parcel,” complained Matt, 47, a Brit with Danish citizenship.

“I’ve stopped ordering books and other items from Amazon UK because of uncertainties with tax regulations,” he added.

“My sisters have to watch the value of presents they send to my grandchildren to avoid paying import taxes,” said a woman living in Copenhagen. 

Problems exchanging driving licence 

Susan complained about the “difficulty of exchanging driving licence”, even though most UK nationals do not need to take a driving test to exchange their driving licence to a Danish one, provided their licence was issued before the UK left the EU. 

Only people who got their licence after Brexit and who want to keep a higher category than a normal car license, entitling them to tow a heavy trailer, take more than eight passengers, or drive a truck or lorry, need to take a so-called “control test”. 

Harder to buy a house 

“Buying a house involved an extra approval from the ministry and adds additional restrictions,” complained AJ, pointing to the requirement that non-EU citizens apply to the Department of Civil Affairs for permission to buy property in Denmark. 

“You have to prove you have strong ties to Denmark,” she said of the process. “We were lucky. We had a great lawyer who got us through it all and we received our approval from the Ministry in two weeks but some people wait up to 12 weeks and then lose their house.” 

This does not apply, however, if you have already been resident in Denmark for more than five years

Difficult to work part-time in the UK 

“I will have to give up my online teaching for a college in London because I’m not allowed to teach more than six weeks in another country,” complained the woman living in Copenhagen. 

Queues at airport passport control

It can be maddening for Brits to be faced with a much shorter queue for EU citizens at airports in Denmark, while the queue for non-EU citizens edges forward painfully slowly. 

Unable to live and work in other EU countries 

“We only have the right to reside here. Much as we love Denmark, it’s a bit like being trapped,” complained AJ, one of many people who listed no longer being able to get a job in or move to another EU country as one of the major drawbacks.  

Michael, a project manager in the wind industry, said that he faced problems as a result of the limits on how long her can work in other EU countries, with the 90/180 rules only enabling him to work 90 out of any one 180 day period in another EU country. 

“Restrictions on travel throughout EU (90/180 rule. Border crossings and risk of stamps in passport that kick 90/180 rule in,” he said. 

“The only way to regain my European rights fully is by becoming Danish and the rules on this seem to change quite frequently, so as a result life seems more precarious and uncertain,” said Liz, who lives in Zealand. 

One recent retiree who had lived in Denmark for 25 years said she was annoyed that Brexit had lost her “my right to live, work, study, retire in the rest of the EU”, but that she had recently applied for and received Danish citizenship. 

Uncertainty about retiring 

“I am concerned about the future,” said Sandra. “When I retire will I still have the same rights or will I be told to leave?”. 

Uncertainty about extending post-Brexit residency card 

Under the EU withdrawal agreement, British citizens living in EU countries at the time Britain left the European Union were offered post-Brexit residency status indefinitely, but the certificates they were issued were only valid for five years, leaving many uncertain as to what happens when they try to renew. 

“I expect to find it more difficult to obtain permanent residency on completion of the Article 51 Temp Residency I got in 2021,” wrote Ian. 

Feels different 

For many respondents, the biggest change was emotional. Brexit has changed how comfortable and secure they feel living in Denmark. 

“It feels different to be needing a resident’s card, rather than being more a ‘part of the European family’, with the feeling of being ‘on probation’ for remaining,” said Stephen. 

“It makes me feel far away from daughter and friends,” said Caroline, a retiree.