Denmark will be allowed de facto access to Europol after Danish voters opposed plans to remain part of the EU’s police co-operation agency in a compromise that may have implications for the UK’s upcoming negotiations on Brexit.
Under the outline agreement between Denmark and the rest of the EU, Danish police will not have direct access to the agency’s databases but will receive instant responses to any requests for information, according to EU officials.
The EU’s leaders reiterated that such a deal was predicated on Denmark meeting a string of criteria, which would most likely not be acceptable to Britain during Brexit negotiations.
Denmark is a member of Schengen, the EU’s passport-free travel zone, and is subject both to the EU’s strict data protection rules and rulings of the European Court of Justice.
Britain’s access to the EU’s various security databases will be a major topic during Brexit talks. The UK is not a member of Schengen and Theresa May, prime minister, has made removing Britain from the jurisdiction of the EU’s top court in Luxembourg a key aim of Brexit negotiations.
Denmark’s membership of Europol was thrown into doubt after the EU changed the legal status of the agency, giving it extra powers and putting it firmly within the remit of justice and home affairs law. Denmark has an opt-out of EU justice and home affairs policy, meaning that it is exempt from all such legislation, which covers everything from co-ordination on crime to asylum policy.
In order to remain part of Europol, the Danish government held a referendum last year in which voters were given the choice to change to an “opt in” system, similar to that used by the UK and Ireland, which can pick what legislation to abide by.
In the end 53 per cent of Danish voters came out against the idea, triggering months of negotiations between Copenhagen and Brussels.
“We had the keys to the main door to Europol, the ones we threw away when we voted no in December last year,” Lars Loekke Rasmussen, Danish prime minister, said this month. “Ever since, we have worked hard to see if we could find a way in through the back door instead, and we can.”
A final deal between Denmark and the rest of the EU must be agreed by May, when the legal status of Europol will officially change.