Danish and British Approaches to a Common European Asylum Policy

Emma Kathrine Mathiasen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This Master’s Thesis deals with Danish and British approaches to the common European asylum policy in the light of the European refugee and migrant crisis. In 2015 more than 1.2 million asylum seekers crossed the European borders, pushing the EU Common Asylum System to the edge and creating an incentive to strengthen and harmonise the policy in an area without internal borders and free movement of persons. However, Denmark holds an opt-out towards supranational cooperation of EU Justice and Home Affairs (JHA), while the United Kingdom (UK) has an opt-in agreement in JHA measures and an opt-out from the Schengen Agreement. This means that Denmark does not participate in the common European asylum policy; the UK has only opted in to the first phases of the main asylum directives; both countries participate in the Dublin- and Eurodac Regulations, but they both reject partaking in the Commission’s proposal on EU refugee quotas. Meanwhile, both governments have introduced restrictive asylum regulations to limit the number of asylum seekers. The main aim of the thesis is hereby focussed on answering why Denmark and the UK have these national reservations towards engaging in a European asylum policy and solution to the many unevenly distributed asylum seekers in Europe. In giving a nuanced and substantial account for this question, the thesis employs theories of European integration as well as diverse principles of democracy traditions. This allows for a vast analysis of Danish and British political and civil societal preference shaping combined with a political cultural analysis explaining why the countries hold these restrictive, state-centred and sceptical approaches towards harmonising their asylum policies with the EU. Even though preferences differ among some of the analysed components, the theoretical framework points to various economic, historic and cultural explanations as to why Denmark and the UK have reservations towards transferring asylum competences to the EU. Especially the fragile, tax-funded welfare systems, the perception of asylum policy as a sensitive domestic policy area and as the analysis of differing democratic principles demonstrates, a cultural clash between the Danish-British and the EU-based perception of legitimacy, sovereignty and institutional powers. With these findings in mind, the thesis deduces that we are dealing with political cultural differences that are deeply ingrained in the Danish and British national identities. This hereby lays the foundation as to why the countries believe that the majority of the asylum policy should be conducted in the sovereign parliaments and not by supranational institutions such as the EU Commission and the EU Court of Justice. And it points to the fact that the protection of national sovereignty is inevitable in the context of finding a common solution to what has been termed ‘Europe’s largest refugee and migration crisis since World War Two’.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages83