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.
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.
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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.