Prime Minister Theresa May and Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Denmark gave statements following their meeting in Copenhagen.
Prime Minister’s statement
Thank you very much and I am very pleased to have the opportunity to meet you Lars today, and to have discussions, as you say, on a number of topics. So I thank you for your hospitality.
As you say, Denmark is a natural partner to the UK. We are like-minded allies and we believe in working together for the prosperity and security of both our countries. I too would like just to say a few words on the topics we have discussed.
First of all, just to re-emphasise that our bilateral relationship, of course, is already strong.
Trade between our 2 countries is worth £10 billion a year and we are important security partners, working together in NATO to help keep our countries and allies safe.
Our troops fought together in Afghanistan, and now they’re working together to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria, and next year around 200 Danish troops will join the multinational NATO battalion that the UK will lead in Estonia, providing reassurance to our allies along NATO’s eastern flank.
And I want to build on these foundations in the years ahead and help our bilateral relationship to flourish.
The UK is leaving the EU but we are not turning our back on Europe, and we want to maintain strong relations with our partners like Denmark, and I’m committed to doing just that.
But of course, we are leaving the EU, so if I turn to Brexit, Lars and I have already talked about the work we are doing in the United Kingdom to prepare for those exit negotiations.
As I said last week, we’ll formally trigger the process of leaving no later than the end of March next year, and I hope it can be a smooth and orderly departure.
That is in the interests of Britain but I think it’s in the interests of all other European countries as well.
The relationship will be different in future because we won’t be members of the Union, but I want the agreement that we come to, to reflect the kind of mature, co-operative relationship that close friends and allies have and, as part of that, I expect to be able to guarantee the legal rights of EU nationals already in the UK, so long as the British nationals living in Europe – countries who are member states – receive the same treatment.
Now, while the UK remains a member of the EU, we will meet our various rights and obligations. We’ll be a fully engaged and active member of the EU until the point at which we leave.
That’s how I’m approaching this first European Council meeting that I will be attending later this month.
We want to work with our European partners. We want to ensure a consistent and firm response to Russian aggression.
We want to do more to address the root causes of mass migration that is affecting people and those movements into Europe and, as you have said Lars, we want to stand up for free trade – we want to ensure that people recognise the importance of free trade as a spur to economic growth.
That is something on which I think we think very much alike and on which we firmly agree, and we certainly want to be taking that argument forward and continuing to promote free trade.
So we have had, I think, excellent discussions today. Thank you very much for the invitation to join you today here in Copenhagen and thank you very much for your hospitality, and I look forward to us continuing to build on our relationship in the future.
Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s statement
Good afternoon. I am very pleased to welcome Prime Minister May here today. We have had excellent talks and a nice lunch, but especially an excellent talk on a number of issues.
The bilateral relations between the United Kingdom and Denmark are strong and we generally share common values and common interests, not least when it comes to open markets and global free trade. We also co-operate closely in the area of defence and security policy and we will continue to do so.
We joined the European Union together 43 years ago in 1973, so having that history in mind and having in mind that we have worked closely together within the European Union, we look eye-to-eye on many different issues, some fiscal policy, free trade, efficient institutions etc.
I must say that I think that it is tragic that the UK is leaving the European Union, but the Brits have made their decision and of course we respect that, and there’s no way around the divorce. But I can assure you that we will miss you when you leave.
Despite the British decision to leave the European Union, we are determined to continue our close relationship in the future. In some areas of course it would be affected by the new course that the United Kingdom has set, but I’m sure we will be able to continue afterwards.
The UK and Denmark have always worked well together with the European Union. I wish for the common negotiations and the future relations between the UK and the EU to be conducted in the same spirit.
It is of course up to the British government to define its wishes for the future relations and to take necessary legal steps to start the process. Only then can we begin the renegotiations.
From our side, the Danish side, I would like to underline that Denmark wants the UK and the EU to remain as close as possible in the future. We should aim for a friendly divorce, that would be our starting point in the coming negotiations. Of course our agreement would have to balance rights and obligations.
But for the time being, the UK is still a member of the European Union, and I think it’s important to emphasise that. In just 2 weeks time Prime Minister May and I will meet again at the European Council in Brussels.
So today we have also had the opportunity to exchange views on a number of the important issues which will be on the agenda at the next meeting at the European Council, in particular migration and relations with Russia. Once again, welcome to Denmark.