Danes worry about Brexit but reject cherry picking over free movement

Denmark is a country with close historic ties to the UK and for which Britain is the fourth largest export destination. But despite this close connection, Danes are scorning suggestions that Britain could cherry pick its favourite bits of the Single Market, while jettisoning the others.

Danes worry about Brexit but reject cherry picking over free movement
Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier visiting a Danish trawler earlier this year. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

“The time is out of joint,” said Hamlet of Denmark in what is perhaps Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy. 

Some 420 years later, Danish exporters are facing their own potential mini tragedy, albeit a political and economic one in light of Brexit.

“The higher trade costs will have a negative impact on Danish exports and imports, and are therefore expected to lead to lower Danish GDP compared to if the UK remained in the EU,” states a June 2017 Danish foreign office analysis of Brexit’s impact on Denmark.

“Ultimately we have to try and reduce the potential damage to the Danish economy as much as possible,” Anders Ladefoged, director of European affairs at the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI), told The Local in an exclusive interview discussing Brexit.

Danish exports to the UK in 2015 totalled 77 billion Danish kroner (€10.35 billion), according to figures from Denmark’s national office of statistics. This powerful trade relationship means the UK is Denmark’s fourth largest export destination: at least 45,000 Danish jobs are linked to exports to the UK.

“The main sectors affected by Brexit in Denmark are food stuff, mainly meat and dairy, but also green technology, construction products, machinery, transport and Danish design products,” says Ladefoged. “Danish food companies are particularly worried about Brexit.”

At least 25 per cent of all imported British pork products come from Denmark, reports the BBC. Danish bacon exporters are particularly worried about the impact Brexit could have on exports to the UK.

READ ALSO: Denmark 'potentially most affected' by Brexit: PM

Yet while many EU companies with a considerable market share in the UK are exploring new markets and reducing their UK footprint, Danish pork giant Danish Crown is upscaling, rather than downscaling, its investment and operational capacity in the UK in preparation for Brexit.

In September 2017, Danish Crown bought British pig producer Easey Holdings. “With this purchase, we insure to some extent our owners' values against some of the consequences Brexit can have for Danish Crown,” said CEO Jais Valeur in a company statement at the time. “Because we cannot earn the money we have previously exported to the UK, we have now secured the opportunity to raise Tulip Ltd's (ED: a Danish Crown subsidiary) earnings through local produce,” he added.

The picture is bleaker for other sectors. “There would be lower tariffs on machinery, but this sector would be – and has already been – affected by a weaker pound. It has become hard for this sector to compete in the UK with local producers because a 10 per cent margin can make you irrelevant,” Ladefoged told The Local.

Ladefoged however is reluctant to make generalisations about how Brexit will affect Danish industry. “It is very difficult to say anything general about how Brexit will affect different sectors. When we talk to our members, we can get 20 different sets of concerns or feedback about Brexit,” he said.

The Confederation of Danish Industry represents more than 10,000 Danish companies and has offices in 10 countries worldwide. Some of the trade group’s members – 40 per cent of which are in manufacturing – do have specific concerns.

“A major concern for the green technology sector is: Will there be a level playing field? For Danish design, the issue of IP protection is important. Some design companies are worried that their products will no longer be protected by EU regulation,” adds Ladefoged.

Denmark has always been one of the UK’s strongest allies in the EU – both have a very laissez faire attitude towards the economy, favour a reduced EU budget and neither are in the eurozone – and the UK’s departure represents the loss of a good friend for Denmark.

READ ALSO: 'I was born in Denmark, but my post-Brexit Danish citizenship application was rejected'

“From the Danish side, there is no doubt that we would rather have seen Britain not leave the EU. But now we have to look forward,” concludes the Danish foreign office’s assessment of the consequences of Brexit.

The Scandinavian country is unlikely however to go against the Franco-German resistance to British PM Theresa May’s latest proposal to keep Britain in the Single Market without freedom of movement.

Ladefoged says that in practical terms the proposal is unviable.

“It’s not that easy to separate the four freedoms. What are goods and what are services? You don’t sell a washing machine, you sell clean clothes at a given moment,” the DI director said.

“Separating goods from services doesn’t reflect the realities of companies,” he added.

Danish food and dairy producers are likely to continue to invest in local facilities in the UK to mitigate the effects of Brexit. Some sectors will be forced to explore new markets.

“Small companies will simply move their customer base to the Single Market,” predicts Ladefoged.

Whatever the outcome, Denmark is perhaps more prepared for Brexit than any other nation – and has been since hours after the Brexit referendum ended.

“The day after the referendum, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen announced the establishment of a cross-ministerial task force. Subsequently, a special Brexit secretariat was created headed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” wrote experts Jesper Dahl Kelstrup and Mads Dagnis Jensen in an analysis piece published in March this year. That analysis suggests Denmark could lose 0.5 to 2 per cent of GDP because of Brexit.

“We are extremely prepared for this process,” says DI's Ladefoged. “We have spent a lot of resources on it because of interest from our members. We are in contact with ministries and have participated in the cross-ministerial task force. It has resulted in a very substantial catalogue of issues.”

READ ALSO: Danish MEP pushes UK Danes to vote local to stop Brexit


Scores of Britons in Denmark may not have received Brexit residency letter

A large number of British nationals who moved to Denmark under EU rules in 2020 may not have received a reminder from Danish authorities to update their residence status ahead of a Brexit deadline, meaning many missed the deadline and could face having to leave.

Scores of Britons in Denmark may not have received Brexit residency letter

Are you a British national in Denmark facing a situation similar to the one described in this article? If so, you can contact us here — we’d like to hear from you.

British nationals who registered as resident in Denmark under EU rules in 2020 – the last year in which EU free movement was available to UK citizens – may not have been officially notified by Danish authorities’ alerts that they needed to apply for updated residence status by the December 31st, 2021 deadline.

That means that people who moved to Denmark from the UK in the year 2020 are more likely to have missed the deadline.

Those who had been living in Denmark before 2020 were much more likely to have received the official notification by Danish authorities.

The issue has potentially serious consequences: the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) is rejecting applications that were submitted late if the reason for late submission was that the applicant did not receive reminder letters in 2021.

As recently reported by The Local, Phil Russell, a 47-year-old financial services administrator who lives in the western part of Zealand, has received notice he must leave Denmark by early December after missing the deadline to apply for a post-Brexit residence permit.

SIRI sent reminders to UK nationals resident in Denmark to update their residence status under the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement prior to a December 31st, 2021 deadline. But Russell did not receive the reminders and eventually discovered he had missed the deadline just four days into January 2022.

READ ALSO: Briton living in Denmark urges authorities to reverse his deportation order

Russell’s situation appears to be far from unique. The Local has spoken with several other UK nationals in Denmark who say they did not receive the information letters. All of the UK nationals moved to Denmark in 2019 or 2020 and all of them registered as resident in the country in 2020.

“I am also a British person in Denmark who did not receive any notifications or reminders regarding the need to apply for new paperwork by the deadline,” a reader, who preferred to remain anonymous, told The Local via email.

“I tried to stay oriented to post-Brexit issues but have, to date, received no information regarding what is required of me post-Brexit and have never seen any of the ‘extensive ad campaigns’ which were apparently designed to inform people like me. I only became aware that I did not have the correct paperwork when leaving to visit the UK in June,” they said.

“I have called for updates regarding my application and have been told it is still being processed,” they said.

“It does seem unreasonable that a government agency is seemingly putting the responsibility on the resident to know of any changes that need to be made to government records, especially when SIRI has not contacted those who they are now seemingly penalising for applying late,” they said.

“I had not ever moved to a different country before this and I’ve certainly never needed to negotiate the complicated nature of Brexit before. I do not know what is normal or not when it comes to residency documents, so if something is required, I would expect to be contacted directly,” said the person, who was granted residency in Denmark in September 2020 under EU rules.

“I have felt failed by SIRI since I found out I had not been contacted at all, let alone three times. Had I known that I needed to reapply, I would have done so straight away,” they said, adding that they experience “daily anxiety knowing there is the possibility of my application being rejected due to its late submission”.

“If there has been a technical error on SIRI’s part, that they should not penalise residents for this,” they said.

READ ALSO: How do other EU countries’ post-Brexit residence permits compare to Denmark?

Two other people, who both registered as resident in Denmark in 2020 under EU rules, also said they had not received SIRI’s information letters.

“While I received my new permit, I also did not receive the letters about renewing,” Danny Maiorca, who moved to Denmark in September 2020, told The Local via email.

Maiorca said the only reason he knew to apply for the updated residence permit was by regularly checking SIRI’s website in 2021.

After initially moving to Denmark in 2019, Alex Stuart registered as a resident under EU rules in 2020. He told The Local he also had not received all of SIRI’s information letters in 2021 and had submitted his post-Brexit residence application after the December 31st, 2021 deadline.

“SIRI hasn’t said anything to me yet, just that they are reviewing my case. But now that I see what they are saying to others I expect my answer won’t be very different,” he said.

The Local has contacted SIRI on repeated occasions to ask whether its information letters failed to reach all persons from the UK who moved to Denmark in 2020. We also asked whether it made sense to revoke the residency status of persons who submitted late applications after not receiving the letters.

The agency has yet to provide an answer but said it intends to respond to our questions. We will update this article or publish a new one once we receive a response.

In an internal record from SIRI which has been seen by The Local, the agency concludes that its information letters were a “supplementary service and part of an information campaign.”

The letters were also available on the agency’s website.

Not receiving the letters was therefore not to be considered an extenuating circumstance in an appeal against a rejected, late application, the agency notes in the internal memo, dated March this year.

SIRI has previously confirmed that as of September 30th, it had received 290 applications for post-Brexit continued residency status after the December 31st, 2021 deadline. Some 17,811 applications were received before the deadline.

Decisions on some applications made after the deadline are still being processed, meaning it is not clear how many UK nationals have already or could yet lose their residency rights.

In a written comment, the British Embassy in Copenhagen said it “is aware that a number of UK nationals residing in Denmark submitted applications for residency after the relevant deadline.”

“The Embassy has been working closely with the Danish authorities on implementation of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and regularising the stay of those UK nationals who have chosen to make Denmark their home,” it said.

British Ambassador to Denmark Emma Hopkins has requested a meeting with the Danish authorities to discuss the application of the rules to UK nationals, the embassy added.

A spokesperson from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said that “anyone who applied before the deadline [December 31st, 2021, ed.] will have their rights protected, even if their application has yet to conclude. The Danish authorities will accept late applications if there are reasonable grounds for missing the deadline.”

The Facebook group British in Denmark, which seeks to provide advice and support for UK nationals who live in Denmark, said that of the group’s 1,400 members, only two who moved to Denmark in 2020 have confirmed they received the SIRI information letters.

While some subsequently applied to update their residence status after the deadline, others were able to meet the deadline because they found out about it through the group or via their personal network, a spokesperson from the group said.

“The problem is that if they arrived in 2020, a lot of people didn’t have that network,” the spokesperson said.

“It’s been left up to the specific countries to decide how they’re going to deal with the late applications. So it’s not written in the Withdrawal Agreement,” she noted.

“Each country can interpret it as long as you’re complying with the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement,” she said.

The citizens’ rights section of the Withdrawal Agreement states that “where the deadline for submitting the application… is not respected by the persons concerned, the competent authorities shall assess all the circumstances and reasons for not respecting the deadline and shall allow those persons to submit an application within a reasonable further period of time if there are reasonable grounds for the failure to respect the deadline”.

The text of the agreement states that anyone living in an EU member state before the end of the transition period has the right to remain.

“In the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement, everyone was sent a letter. But the people of 2020 didn’t get a letter,” the British in Denmark spokesperson said.

“We really want as many late applicants as possible to join our group. We’ve got people together to provide support for each other and the late applicants who are in there have found it really, really useful,” she added.

“There are devastating potential consequences for them to be facing this alone with their families,” she said.