Why did Danish justice minister quit to take unheralded breweries job?

Former Danish Minister of Justice Nick Hækkerup resigned in a surprise announcement on Sunday that he was quitting his government job to take over as head of the Danish Brewer’s Association.

Nick Hækkerup quits as justice minister
Former justice minister Nick Hækkerup has quit one of the most powerful jobs in Danish politics to take over as director of the Danish Brewer's Association. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

Hækkerup announced late on Sunday in a social media post that he was quitting politics after 15 years as a senior member of parliament with the Social Democrats, and taking over as head of the private sector interest organisation on June 1st.

The Minister of Justice post, occupied by Hækkerup since the Social Democrats won the general election in 2019, is arguably the highest-profile job in Danish politics after the Prime Minister.

READ ALSO: Danish immigration minister Tesfaye switches jobs in government reshuffle

Few will argue Hækkerup is not taking a step downwards, rather than sideways, as he moves to the private sector to work in the interests of the brewing industry.

The outgoing minister spoke to media on Monday after officially stepping down from government following the formality of meeting with Queen Margrethe.

“I’m not worn out. I actually like Danish politics and like being in Danish politics, but I also want to try something else in my life,” he said.

Hækkerup’s job change comes not long after the government proposed raising the minimum age for drinking alcohol to 18, a move opposed by the Danish Brewer’s Association (Bryggerifonden).

He declined to answer whether he now opposed the government plan.

“I’m going to take on the role of being director of the Danish Brewer’s Association,” he said.

“I’ve noted that DSU (Social Democrats’ youth wing, ed.) think that the alcohol percentage rather than age should be looked at [as the basis for a limit, ed.],” he said.

Hækkerup also dismissed the suggestion he had been forced out of government.

“I have chosen to do this myself,” he said.

The Ministry of Justice is currently dealing with a high-profile case centred around leaks at intelligence service Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE), in which the former intelligence chief Lars Findsen and former defence minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen have both been accused of leaking sensitive information.

READ ALSO: Denmark frees ex-spy boss accused of leaks

A conclusion by the Mink Commission, which is currently investigating the 2020 decision to close down the mink fur farming industry due to concerns over Covid-19 mutations in minks, could also impact Hækkerup’s former ministry.

That has led to speculation by some commenters on social media that Hækkerup had looked to leave before the potentially damaging outcomes of those cases.

“But there are always ongoing cases at the Ministry of Justice and when opportunities like the Danish Brewer’s Association arise, you have to take your chance. And the cases will be concluded whatever happens,” he said.

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Poll suggests Danes ready to scrap EU opt-out in referendum

A new poll indicates a majority of Danes is in favour of scrapping the country’s EU defence opt-out in an upcoming referendum.

Poll suggests Danes ready to scrap EU opt-out in referendum

The poll, conducted by Epinion on behalf of broadcaster DR, shows 38 percent of voters in favour of revoking the opt-out, compared with 27 percent who want to retain it.

28 percent said they do not know how they will vote, meaning there is still plenty of potential for both a “yes” and “no” outcome in the June 1st vote.

An earlier poll, conducted in March, put the two sides closer, with 38 percent of eligible voters then saying they would vote ‘yes’ to scrapping the opt-out, with 31 percent saying they would vote ‘no’ and 31 percent saying they didn’t know.

The government announced in March a June 1st referendum in which citizens will decide whether to overturn Denmark’s opt-out from EU defence policy. The referendum was called following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Denmark’s opt-out – retsforbehold in Danish – is one of four EU special arrangements negotiated by the Scandinavian country, and has seen it abstain from participation in EU military operations and from providing support or supplies to EU-led defence efforts.

READ ALSO: Why does Denmark have four EU ‘opt-outs’ and what do they mean?

In April, the wording of the question on voting ballots for the referendum was changed, following objections from politicians opposed to scrapping the opt-out.

According to a breakdown of the new poll, younger voters and women are the most undecided groups. 20 percent of men said they were unsure how to vote compared to 38 percent of women.

Among 18-34 year-olds, 39 percent were unsure how they would vote compared to 22 percent of voters over the age of 56 who have yet to decide how to cast their votes.