Deal with eurosceptics could stave off EU patent referendum

The government must call a referendum on the EU banking union and patent court unless Dansk Folkeparti gives up its objection, which it might do if the price is right

Dansk Folkeparti (DF) is willing to let Denmark join the EU patent court in exchange for either a referendum on the EU banking union or increased restrictions on welfare to non-Danish citizens.

Denmark would lose sovereignty by joining the EU the patent court and, as a result, needs the agreement of five sixths of the parliament – without it the government must call a referendum.

DF and the far-left party Enhedslisten are opposed to both the patent court and banking union. Together they hold 32 seats, just over the one sixth that is needed to force a referendum.

Banking union DF’s referendum of choice
In Politiken newspaper today, Kristian Thulesen Dahl, Dansk Folkeparti’s leader, said he was willing to vote in favour of the patent court in exchange for a referendum on the EU banking union, or on measures to limit so-called “welfare tourism”.

“We are very worried about the EU patent court,” Dahl said. “But we of course interested in getting something that means more to us. In which case the banking union is interesting, or finding ways to limit welfare tourism using Danish protective rules.”

DF has expressed concern about the mounting number of foreign nationals who claim welfare benefits such as unemployment payments and student grants and which, they argue, undermines the Danish welfare state.

READ MORE: EU welfare rulings challenge benefits of open borders

The EU patent court is designed to make it easier for small business to gain patents, while the banking union will establish a single supervising body for EU banks. While the patent court will definitely need either a referendum or the support of a supermajorty in parliament, it is not certain whether joining the EU banking union would require Denmark to cede sovereignty. If that it is the case, it could be approved by a simple majority in parliament.

Dahl said that the banking union would have a greater impact on the lives of Danes and so he would rather see that area of co-operation put to the Danish people.

Referendum already this winter
On Tuesday Berlingske newspaper reported that the government was planning on holding a referendum within the next few months but it was hoping DF would change course and support the court.

"Our roadmap is to publish our proposals and argue why the parliament should support this,” the EU minister, Nick Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne), told Berlingske newspaper. “It’s so obviously in our interest because it would also protect the inventions that are being made in Denmark.”