Danish Premier Says Still in the Dark on May’s Brexit Plans

  • ‘There’s quite a lot of work that needs to be done’ in U.K.
  • Rasmussen comments in interview after meeting with May

The U.K.’s European Union partners still have no concrete idea of what kind of relationship it wants to forge with the bloc, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said after he became the first foreign leader to meet Theresa May since she set a timetable for Brexit.

“It appears as if there’s quite a lot of work that needs to be done in the U.K. before there’s a clear view of what the British want,” Rasmussen said in an interview Monday on the sidelines of his meeting with May, at the premier’s official residence in Marienborg, near Copenhagen.

Lars Rasmussen and Theresa May on Oct. 10.

Photographer: Keld Navntoft/AFP via Getty Images

May chose Denmark as the first stop of a short tour of what she called “like-minded allies” as she seeks to build understanding for her position ahead of her first EU summit as U.K. leader next week. From Copenhagen she traveled to the Netherlands for talks with Prime Minister Mark Rutte, to be followed by a visit to acting premier Mariano Rajoy in Madrid on Thursday.

Rasmussen was able to rule out suggestions that Britain would “copy a well-known model, like Norway’s.” Norway has frequently been mentioned as an example of a country that is outside the EU but still enjoys preferential access to its single market as a member of the European Economic Area.

Not Norway

The British government is “putting in some efforts to identify what kind of relationship they want,” Rasmussen said. All the same, the U.K.’s partners “can’t move ahead until the U.K. has done this work,” he said.

Having said she’ll trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of March, May is under pressure domestically and internationally to firm up her vision of Britain’s future relationship with the 28-nation bloc. Her pledge to restrict immigration is increasingly seen by investors and fellow EU governments as incompatible with continued unfettered access to the single market, contributing to a plunge in the pound to a 31-year low last week.

“I hope it can be a smooth and orderly departure,” May told reporters in Denmark. “That is in the interests of Britain but I think it’s in the interests of all other European countries as well.”

Rutte, the Dutch leader, warned May that the rules of the EU’s single market was not a “selection menu.”

“The first step must be taken by the U.K.," he said in a statement after meeting May in the Hague on Monday. "The negotiations will require heavy British effort, a final agreement is not only in the interest of the EU but also of the U.K.”

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