The Danes have spoken. Denmark’s citizens voted to stay away from all that the European Union (EU) has to offer, causing a blow to Brussels before government leaders meet to discuss British demands for a renegotiated relationship with the union. The EU consists of 28 members.

Denmark decided to preserve an opt-out from EU home affairs and justice as 53% of the voters favored for things to stay just the way they are. Meanwhile, 47% supported a change to allow for a flexible opt-in. The country’s Liberals and its largest opposition party, the Social Democrats, both campaigned for closer ties to the EU prior to the vote.

Denmark Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen said that, “The result of the election is based on a general skepticism toward the EU.” Yet, Rasmussen contends that, “If we’re to fight cross-border crime, I think one has to say that Denmark needs to be part of this union.”

He added that, “At stake is the ability to coordinate everything from tracking cyber crime to ensuring family disputes get the same legal treatment across EU borders.”

Kristian Thulesen-Dahl, head of the Danish People’s Party noted however that, “Danes are saying yes to cooperation but no to relinquishing more sovereignty to Brussels.”

The Danish referendum was the last big test of popular support for the EU before government officials and heads of state meet in a few weeks to discuss the British demands. A Danish “no” at the meeting could bolster the U.K’s skepticism of the EU and provide leverage to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron as he calls for EU reform.

Marlene Wind, a political science professor at the University of Copenhagen agrees with this sentiment and states that,  “A ’no’ vote will cause concern in Brussels. . .[It’s] a signal that the Danes, like the British, have become more skeptical.”

Recent polls show that 33% of Danes believe the EU is simply one big bureaucracy. In fact, only Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic have a lesser opinion of the EU’s “administrative evils.” Yet, 70% of Danes do believe that they are better off inside the EU rather than outside.
The European Council next meets on the December 17 and 18.

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