Danes’ support of EU skyrockets after Brexit

The results of two polls show that Danes are much more interested in remaining in the EU than they were before the UK voted to leave on June 23rd.

Danes' support of EU skyrockets after Brexit
People hold up pro-Europe placards as thousands of protesters take part in a March for Europe, through the centre of London on Saturday. Photo: NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Scanpix
The two polls – one taken before Brexit and one in its aftermath – reveal a sharp drop in the number of Danes interested in having their own referendum and a significant increase in the number of people who want to remain in the EU. 
When pollster Voxmeter asked Danes before the UK vote if they thought Denmark should hold its own referendum on EU membership, 40.7 percent said yes. After Brexit become a reality, that number plunged to just 32 percent. 
Likewise, the number of Danes who want to remain in the EU went from 59.8 percent before the referendum to a full 69 percent afterward.
Derek Beach is a professor at Aarhus University and a leading expert on Danes’ opinions on the EU. He told news agency Ritzau that Brexit drove home the reality of what a vote to leave the union would mean for Denmark. 
“We can see a country that we know well make the decision. Then the Danes think ‘we definitely don’t want that’. The overall opinion is that we are happy enough with what we have,” he said.
Jan E. Jørgensen, a spokesman for the ruling Venstre party, said he was happy to see the difference in the poll results.
“This shows that when you can see that this is for real, and the consequences that come with leaving the EU, then the support [for the EU] becomes greater. It’s not because the people think the EU is perfect. We don’t think that either,” he told Ritzau. 
Following the UK voters’ decision to leave the EU, Danish PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen has said he has no plans to hold a referendum on Denmark’s EU membership.
The Brexit vote has sent global financial markets into meltdown, caused the UK Prime Minister David Cameron to resign and exposed huge fractures in the British political landscape, which show no signs of being resolved anytime soon. 'Leave' campaigner Boris Johnson also abandoned ship, deciding to not compete in the Conservative Party leadership race, while Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKip), stepped down on Monday, saying he “needed his life back”.

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Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.