This newspaper fully respects the democratic choice British voters made in June 2016 to leave the European Union. However, as a decisive vote in the British Parliament looms and uncertainty about Britain’s path out of the EU persists, we feel a strong urge to share some thoughts with you.
Actually, it is more a feeling we would like to express, although it may be too late and maybe even irrelevant to many of you: it is a feeling of profound sadness because we simply hate to see you leave.
To us, the United Kingdom is a pillar of European political culture and cooperation. In the darkest hour during World War 2, it was British sacrifice and resolve in defense of democratic values that saved the continent.
You have helped create the Europe we know today. You have championed human rights, free trade and transatlantic partnership, and as a member of the EU, you have, time and again, been an indispensable voice for a commonsensical and liberal approach to problem solving. Believe it or not, the EU is less bureaucratic and spends public money more wisely thanks to you.
The British relationship to Europe has had its own irony over the past decades. On the one hand, a bewildering approach to reality in large parts of the British press and political establishment, with wildly misleading stories or outright lies being floated about awful eurocrats. And on the other hand, a show of world-class British diplomats understanding the political game in Brussels better than anyone and making the UK one of the most influential members of the EU.
Today the visceral seems to have won over the pragmatic in the British approach to European politics, and the result is a huge loss of British influence and complete confusion about the handling of Brexit.
This is not to say that the EU is perfect. Many Europeans share your concerns about national sovereignty. The criticism of supranational institutions also resonates strongly in Denmark where we have our own history of debating Europe. We have held eight referendums about the EU since 1972 – resulting in three »No« votes and five »Yes« votes and effectively granting Denmark a special place in the EU with opt-outs on defense, the euro and Justice and Home Affairs issues.
The Danish experience is that discussions about Europe can create deep divisions but we are also proud to have chosen the democratic road to these important decisions. A wide national consensus has evolved over time about the pros and cons of membership of the EU and it is therefore a very informed choice when we choose to stay in. We realise that many of the most pressing challenges we are facing today can only be solved in cooperation with our European friends. And we also understand that being a member of the EU actually makes Denmark stronger as a nation.
So, let it be said from a Danish perspective: you should be proud to be undertaking a national debate about the UK’s place in Europe but you should also make sure to create clarity about what that means. What kind of Brexit do you really want?
»The UK is obviously harmed by the current Brexit confusion and the risk of leaving the EU with no deal at all. It really looks like a monumental act of self-harm.«
The UK is obviously harmed by the current Brexit confusion and the risk of leaving the EU with no deal at all. It really looks like a monumental act of self-harm.
But Europe is hurting too. So we cannot help but hope that you will have second thoughts and delay your departure. More time is needed to secure a proper deal – and maybe even allow for a new referendum.