Britain's EU sceptics are secret weapon for Danes

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The Independent Online

Campaigners for a "yes" vote in this month's Danish referendum on membership of the euro have stumbled upon a new secret weapon: Britain's Eurosceptics. So alarmed was one Danish MP after a week's stay in London that she has abandoned her party's "no" campaign and is now backing the euro.

Campaigners for a "yes" vote in this month's Danish referendum on membership of the euro have stumbled upon a new secret weapon: Britain's Eurosceptics. So alarmed was one Danish MP after a week's stay in London that she has abandoned her party's "no" campaign and is now backing the euro.

Among the reasons for her recent Damascene conversion, Margrete Auken lists a leading article in the Daily Telegraph, a visit to the House of Commons and the activities of the arch-Eurosceptic Conservative MEP, Daniel Hannam.

Denmark, which famously rejected the Maastricht Treaty at the first time of asking, will hold its referendum on the euro on 28 September and the "no" campaign has now taken a lead in the opinion polls.

Ms Auken, who was in the UK with other Danish parliamentarians to improve her English, expected a constructive debate about the merits of the European single currency. What she heard was so far from this that she is prepared to campaign in Britain for the euro, if a referendum is held.

Before her arrival Ms Auken advocated economic cooperation among countries outside the monetary union, with Denmark, Sweden, and the UK clubbing together to "create a zone outside the euro".

"I was just following the TV, reading the newspapers and talking to people. It became clear that my idea of a "no" was not an option. It is obvious that in England if it is not [about getting] out of Europe, it is close to that."

The mood music produced by the Eurosceptics was, she said, of a "Rule Britannia dream of England being again a real power".

Her suspicions aroused, Ms Auken consulted the oracle of Euroscepticism and had her fears confirmed.

"I read a leading article in the Daily Telegraph," she said, observing that "the line was 'now we grow apart'. It was not 'how can we strengthen the EU?' and 'is the euro a dangerous project [for the EU]?' It was fear of being dominated by the EU."

In general the Eurosceptics feared domination by Germany and France. It was, said Ms Auken, "terrifying to hear that old story again". During their stay in July the Danish MPs were invited to the Commons by the cross-party Denmark Group, whose chairman is the Conservative MP Nicholas Winterton. Ms Auken said she was given the impression that "parliament would fall apart if you changed anything".

A meeting with the Europhile ex-MP Sir Anthony Meyer, who had challenged Margaret Thatcher for the Conservative leadership in 1989, made a positive impression. "He used the phrase 'pooling sovereignty' and argued that we are not weakening ourselves, we are stren- gthening ourselves in this act."

Although she did not meet Mr Hannam, he attracted widespread attention in Denmark by raising funds for the 'no' campaign and appearing at a meeting of the right-wing, anti-immigration Danish People's Party. "I think Hannam was good for the 'yes' campaign. Being there at the party meeting [of the Danish people's party] wasn't that intelligent. He confirmed [that the message] is 'keep us out, we are not going in for this Europe stuff'."

Mr Hannam said he had never met Ms Auken and did not know "what her motivation might be" and that British Euro-scepticism was "moderate and common sense".

Ms Auken is a member of the Socialist People's Party which is worried that the single currency will prevent devaluation and also constrain public spending.

She fears domination by the US and she is concerned that Europe, which she describes as a "weak construction", could "fall apart" without support. That might not be such a worry for British Eurosceptics.

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