Project Fear

(Lave Knud Broch)

LONDON interviewed Lave Knud Broch about how in the Danish elite's EU supporters sought to convince the Danish people in the runups to various EU referendums in Denmark. Lave Knud Broch is a substitute member of the European Parliament for the Danish People's Movement against the EU. Next week, the United Kingdom will hold a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union. In 1972, Denmark had held a referendum on entering the EEC. If you compare the way EU supporters are arguing today in the UK and how they were arguing then in Denmark - do you see similarities?

Lave Knud Broch: Yes, very many. Fear has played a role in all Danish referendums on the EU. In the EEC referendum in 1972, there were threats about unemployment, less investments, that the Danish currency would devaluate and many other things - and also that we had to join the EEC, so that we could continue to sell bacon to the UK. It was obvious that the EU supporters believed that they had to threaten the Danes, just as they are doing in the UK today. What about in Denmark's referendum on the Maastricht Treaty, in 1992 - were the Danish people again confronted with "project fear"?

Broch: Yes, definitely. Economic threats played a role in that referendum again and have played a role every time we have voted on EU questions. But they also warned, we would lose influence. That no one will listen to us, internationally, if we did not stay in the core of the EU. But, in 1992, Danes probably felt that the lies and threats were too much. Because a former prime minister had said in the referendum on the single market in 1986 that "the union is stone dead" and that people could vote "yes" to the single market without getting a union later. So many Danes felt that they had been betrayed and if the union is supposed to be "dead," why are we voting to turn the EEC into a union. What happened after the Danish "no" in 1992?

Broch: After the "no" in 1992, Denmark won the European Football Championship. (Laughs.) Well, politically, we obtained four EU opt-outs: 1) no to the euro currency, 2) no to the EU's defense policy, 3) no to the EU's supranational judicial policy and 4) no to EU citizenship. A new referendum confirmed that Denmark had won these opt-outs as a elements of Denmark's EU relationship. There was another referendum in Denmark in December last year on the Danish opt-outs. "Project fear", third edition?

Broch: Yes, last December we did have another referendum. But, I should mention that we also had a referendum on the euro in year 2000. And it was a pro EU campaign with all sorts of economic threats. But after voting "no" to the euro, it was obvious that the scaremongering had been false. Denmark has its own currency and is managing much better than most of the euro countries, including Germany. So I think many Danes are not buying that scaremongering any more. And when they tried with "project fear" in last year's December referendum on the EU's supranational judicial policy, Danes again voted "no." In spite of the pro-EU claims that Denmark would have difficulties fighting all kinds of criminality - pedophilia, drug trafficking, robberies and even terrorists - if we did not hand over our sovereignty to the EU on judicial questions. Many of the pro-EU parties waged a very shameful campaign. Having said "no" to Maastricht in three referendums - what do Danes think of the UK referendum?

Broch: I think it is great that the British people have the chance to vote on the EU membership, but I also think that it is time to debate the EU without the scaremongering. People are not stupid, and they will not accept all kinds of nonsense. If you try to scare people with Ragnarok or World War Three, people will not buy it. I think that many ordinary British citizens will look at the reality. The EU is undermining democracy, and it does not look as if it is going to change for the better, so I think there are good chances for a British exit result. And I hope that both Denmark and the UK will leave the EU. After all both countries joined the EU at the same time, so it would make sense, if we leave together. However, we still need cooperation in Europe. I want a Europe, where people can travel, study, work, live and trade across borders but where democracy also has the best conditions. I believe that is much easier to build without being a member of the EU. Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are living alternatives to the EU. We all have good cooperation with them. And if Denmark and the UK left the EU, I am sure that the remaining EU countries would still want to cooperate and trade with us.