From a Danish perspective, the EU must work constructively to secure trade and security with the UK

From a Danish perspective, the EU must work constructively to secure trade and security with the UK

After Theresa May’s decisive speech last month that set a course for a clean break with the EU, we now know that the UK will quit the European single market and seek a free trade agreement with the EU instead.

Dozens of countries have already been lining up to do free trade deals with Britain. In order to avoid being overshadowed and left behind, the European Union should stop talking about Brexit in a negative and defensive way. It is high time that it abandons its arrogance and faces the reality as it is, not as it wishes it to be.

I believe that the European Union has to make every effort to negotiate a good and fair trade deal with the UK. The EU has to become fully aware of the fact that a good trade deal is beneficial – not only to the UK, but also to all EU Member States.

As regards Denmark, the UK is a very important export market. Currently, the UK is the fifth largest trade supplier for Denmark, while Denmark is ranked as the UK’s 23rd largest export market. In other words, Denmark-UK trade is an important factor behind Denmark’s trade surplus.

Moreover, Danish industry is closely linked in many ways to the UK. While it is of great importance for the UK that the City of London remains the centre of Europe’s financial sector, it is strongly in the interest of Denmark’s agricultural sectors to retain tariff-free access to the UK market, and Danish fishing also depends very much on the future deal with the UK. It is vital that Danish fishermen have continued access to British waters.

And last but not least, we must not forget that Britain is a close strategic and military NATO ally of the EU, playing its full part in upholding a rules-based global architecture. For Denmark, as for many other European countries, NATO is the central forum for Foreign, Security and Defence Policy dialogue and co-operation with the UK. I sincerely hope Brexit will not affect this crucial and close military co-operation.

The past has shaped the present. Even after Brexit, the UK will stay part of Europe, whether the EU likes it or not. Cutting our historical, military and economic ties would simply be catastrophic for both players. We would run the risk of ending up in an ongoing battle over trade and more, which would have no winners. For this very reason, the EU has to make every effort to do what leads to mutual satisfaction.

For example, the UK should be able to buy itself into the schemes that are beneficial to both the EU and the UK, such as Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020. However, this is of course a decision that has to be taken by the UK government as well.

It is clear that I cannot agree with the approach of Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, who rubbished Theresa May’s pledge to deliver a new EU trade deal by 2019 as “impossible”.

In contrast to “Mister Brexit”, I am strongly convinced that it is key to the economic prosperity and security of EU citizens that we appreciate and work constructively with the UK’s objectives. If the EU fails to do this, it risks being overcome by popular discontent and Denmark could well be the next country to leave the bloc.
Photocredit: Jacob Bøtter