Late yesterday evening, Danes rejected adopting EU rules on cross-border policing in a referendum that could have seen the country take closer ties with the bloc, according to final results. Denmark’s centre-right government had wanted to abandon some Danish opt-outs from EU home affairs legislation. But with all votes now counted, more than 53% said No to the proposals.
The vote comes weeks after the Paris attacks and as Europe struggles to deal with record numbers of migrants. “It is a clear no,” Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said, adding he had “full respect” for the voters’ decision. The government, backed by the opposition, had campaigned for Yes, saying it would help Danish authorities in the wake of the Paris attacks.
Ultimately, voting No means Denmark remains exempt from large parts of the EU’s criminal justice and home affairs system, a position it negotiated in 1993. It risks losing access to Europol, Europe’s crime and intelligence-sharing agency, a service frequently used by Denmark.
The confusing wording of the referendum question seems to have been a factor.
One voter described it as “the most baffling in the history of the EU”, and on the foggy, wet streets of Copenhagen, that sentiment seemed to be shared by voters as they left polling stations, saying the question was too complicated and technical, and that explanations from politicians were not comprehensive.
For Denmark’s government, urgent talks will now take place between Copenhagen and Brussels, to work out the ramifications of what the No vote means.