The Irish ‘No’: impact on the Danish opt-outs

The Irish voters’ rejection of the Lisbon Treaty was met with disappointment by the Danish government and pro-EU parties, but with joy from the parties and movements against the treaty being adopted in Denmark without a referendum. Jens-Peter Bonde (leader of the EU sceptical June Movement and former MEP) spent the 13th of June 2008 in Ireland celebrating the result with the Irish ‘No’ voters. The right-wing Danish Peoples Party, the left-wing Unity list and the two movements against the treaty, the June Movement and the Peoples’ Movement against the EU, saw the Irish rejection of the treaty as the final end of the treaty.
There is generally agreement in the Danish parliament (“Folketing”) that reform of the Lisbon Treaty is not an option as the treaty is already a political balance between conflicting interests. Therefore, changing the treaty text is regarded as opening a Pandora’s box and (re)starting a never-ending process. The Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has recommended that Ireland negotiates opt-outs from the Lisbon Treaty but should be cautious in ‘cherry picking’ from the document. The Danish model of 1992 could be a model for Ireland referring to the four Danish opt-outs from 1992 that enabled Denmark to endorse the Maastricht Treaty after an initial referendum thumbs-down. According to Rasmussen, Ireland should find national solutions that are acceptable for Ireland and the Irish people in a similar way that the Danish parliament dealt with the Danes rejection of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. There is no doubt, however, that the Danish pro-treaty parties want Ireland to find a solution as soon as possible. Most Danish newspapers have more or less doomed the EU integration process in case the Lisbon Treaty fails to come into force leaving the EU in a worse ‘crisis’ than the so-called reflection period following the failure of the Constitutional Treaty.[1]
The Irish ‘No’ to the Lisbon Treaty also has an impact on the Danish opt-outs. Prior to the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, it seemed likely that the Danish opt-out regarding supranational co-operation on Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) and the defence policy opt-out were going to be put to a referendum in autumn 2008. The Lisbon Treaty gives the JHA opt-out much greater significance as all aspects of formerly-JHA co-operation come under supranational co-operation, including police and criminal law co-operation. If the JHA opt-out is maintained and the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, Denmark will stand completely outside the whole area of JHA co-operation in the course of a few years. The Lisbon Treaty opens the possibility for Denmark to change the opt-out to an opt-in arrangement with the hypothetical possibility of picking and choosing on a case-by-case basis. However, after the Irish voters’ rejection of the Lisbon Treaty and the following uncertainty of the treaty’s future, it is uncertain whether or not, Denmark will have a referendum on one or more opt-outs in the near future.

[1] EU-Business: Reform of Lisbon Treaty not an option after Irish ‘no’: Danish PM, available at: (last access: 2 July 2008).