Three ways the British election result could impact Denmark

The British Conservative Party and leader Boris Johnson are celebrating a landslide victory in Thursday’s general election.

Three ways the British election result could impact Denmark
Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

Johnson looks set to gain a majority of around 86, much larger than expected and enough to enable him to pass his Brexit withdrawal deal through parliament without support from other parties.

That means the UK is all but certain to leave the EU by January 31st and Brits living in Europe will no longer be EU citizens.

The British PM will need to negotiate a new trade deal and future relationship, encompassing customs and tariffs, with the EU by the end of 2020, under the terms of the withdrawal agreement.

Brits in Denmark

There are two ways British nationals living in EU countries, including Denmark, can look at the result.

“There is bad news and less bad news for us,” Kalba Meadows from British in Europe and France Rights told The Local prior to Thursday’s vote.

“The bad news (should Johnson win majority) is that the UK would leave the EU, there would be no second referendum, and we would lose our EU citizenship on Brexit day,” Meadows said.

The less bad news is the protection offered to Brits in the EU by the Withdrawal Agreement, she explained.

“One important point worth making is this: if the government fails to negotiate a future relationship/trade deal by December 31st, 2020 and there's no extension to the transition agreement, then the UK would automatically default to trading on WTO terms – this is often referred to in the media as a second no deal point.

“However – and this is important – the Withdrawal Agreement would remain in place as an international treaty and the rights that it includes for us would remain covered.

“They cannot be removed even in the absence of a trade agreement. Once the Withdrawal Agreement is in force, we will be covered by it for our lifetimes whatever happens with future negotiations,” she said.

READ ALSO: REMINDER: What the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement means for British citizens in Europe

Danish jobs could be endangered

A potential economic slowdown in the UK resulting from Brexit could impact Danish companies.

It should be noted that, particularly with the future relationship yet to be negotiated, it is difficult to predict the long-term economic outcome.

But the Danish Chamber of Commerce (Dansk Erhverv) expects a downturn of some form in the long term, DR reports.

Over 60,000 Danish jobs are connected to exports to the UK, the organization’s head of international trade Michael Bremerskov Jensen told the broadcaster.

The Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri, DI), a private interest organization made up of approximately 10,000 Danish companies, said that it expected Brexit to occur by the end of January, with Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement now likely to be passed by the Conservative majority.

“It’s a shame the UK is leaving the EU, but at least there is some clarity over the process now,” DI’s head of European Politics Anders Ladefoged said in comments provided to The Local.

“The most important thing for companies is for Brexit to happen in an orderly and predictable way. The Withdrawal Agreement means that companies will benefit from a transitional arrangement that extends current EU rules until a future trade agreement is in place,” Ladefoged said.

“There are only 11 months in principle to reach this agreement [by December 31st, 2020, ed.]. DI’s assessment is that this is not enough, and we therefore hope that the new British government will agree to extend the negotiation period and thereby the transitional arrangement by one or two years,” he added.

Danish fishing

Danish fishermen catch as much as 40 percent of their fish in British waters, and the country’s fishing industry has closely followed Brexit developments since the 2016 referendum confirmed the UK’s intention to leave the EU.

Prior to the vote, Esben Sverdrup-Jensen, director of industry interest organization Danmarks Pelagiske Producentorganisation, told DR the country’s fishing sector “needs to move on”.

“This is because it’s so important to reach an agreement between the EU and the UK in which we can retain our permissions to fish in British waters and retain the distribution of quotas internally in the EU,” Sverdrup-Jensen said.

“It is absolutely crucial for the 16,000 people on Denmark who are employed in the fishing sector or fishing-related work that a sensible agreement is made with the UK,” he added.

READ ALSO: Danes worry about Brexit but reject cherry picking over free movement

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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.