This morning I was reading in the FT an article about the inevitable complexities of leaving the EU. I am sure you have read many. The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, has said that ‘we can’t hide the fact that it is complex’ (FT, 20.3.17). As you know, David Davies heads up our Brexit Committee and there are two links below, a Parliament link and a Guardian link, that list the others involved.
History: Greenland leaving EU
Ten years later in 1982, Denmark held a second referendum and voted to quit the bloc with 52% in favour. Denmark then proposed to the EEC on Greenland’s behalf that the bloc’s rules cease to apply to Greenland. The main issue was fishing. Fishing, you see, is the main economy in Greenland: 90% of it, in fact (according to the ITV link below). Greenland’s fishermen were concerned about the competition from foreign boats using their rights under the Common Fisheries Policy; especially when Spain and Portugal decided they wanted to join (which didn’t happen until 1986). As the dominant single industry, Greenland wanted some form of protection. One fisherman said that he actually had to travel to Brussels every month to obtain permission to fish in his own waters! (See source below, which also mentions that many UK fishermen lost their jobs as a result of joining the EU).
Exit negotiations focused mainly on the fisheries industry and took over 2 years to complete. Germany, at that time, were the most reluctant of the EEC countries for Greenland to leave and were no doubt the ones least in favour of the UK leaving.
Because Greenland is still part of the kingdom of Denmark, its citizens are still considered Danish and as such, are also considered EU citizens. Furthermore, they still receive funding from the EU budget: mainly for sustainable development, i.e. fishing. They also receive some EU funding for education. Maybe they need some money for the reindeer too, who knows, although I think Santa Claus lives in Lapland. (I’m sure he doesn’t suffer as Finland are in the EU; anyway, I digress….)
Greenland is the world’s largest island, although most of it is covered in ice caps and glaciers. Geographically, it is actually considered to part of North America (although it’s closer to Canada) but politically, through its association with Denmark, it has closer ties with Europe. Culturally they are also closer to Europe; again, a result of their ties with Denmark (source for this in New European Economy article below).
Also, did you know that Greenland’s capital is called Nuuk? I thought it was interesting anyway. Funny name that; you’ll never know when that fact might come in handy!
I don’t understand: they still have certain rights under the EU, receive EU subsidies, remain EU citizens, despite leaving the union and as such, are entitled to vote in European Parliamentary elections. Do they have to pay towards EU membership?
The Comparison with the UK
There is a great deal of difference! Greenland is a country of 56,000 whilst the UK have around 64 million. Secondly, the only treaty that Greenland really had to negotiate with the EEC was in relation to the fishing industry. The UK are much more heavily embroiled in the EU than that. Thankfully, at least, we never voted to join the fiscal union so there is some saving grace there. I mentioned in one of my previous articles that if Le Pen were to win the French election this May and succeeded in her desire to exit not only the EU but also the economic union, the French debt would have to be transposed into the French national currency and would, quite simply, became absolutely enormous.
Is Greenland ever likely to reconsider joining the EU?
I’ll leave that one for you to review. For the moment, why would they? They still benefit from subsidies and protection in their fishing industry without having to pay to be part of it. There again, Denmark pay for them anyway. This could of course change were Greenland to look into seeking foreign investment towards other industries and natural resources but that, being something that has not yet happened, is not something that I can really comment on. Worth consideration though.
Article in FT, paper version, Monday 20.2.17
Figures for Danish referendum to join the EEC:
Article where fisherman mentions having to travel to Brussels to obtain permission to fish in his own waters:
New European Economy article (this article also gives some information on Greenland’s resources, other than fishing):
Politico article 22.6.16
ITV news article, 11.5.16, citing 90% of Greenland’s economy based on the single industry of fishing:
Some information on Greenland’s ties with Denmark:
European Commission: EU-Greeland relationship:
Danish Parliament web page citing Greenland’s position in the EU:
More information on relationship between Greenland and the EU, particularly in relation to the EU funding they are eligible for:
UK parliament information page on Brexit procedures:
UK parliament Select Committee for Brexit:
Guardian article, 20.2.17, on UK Brexit Committee and EU Brexit Committee – how they line up (obviously Hollande will be leaving when his tenure as French President ends):
Reuters article, dated 1.6.16, on whether or not Greenland would ever consider re-joinint the EU:
Internal map of Denmark and Greenland showing Greenland’s geographical proximity to Canada:
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