According to the first referendum exit polls, Danes looked set to reject adopting certain EU rules. They were asked to entrust parliament to opt in to some justice and home affairs rules to help fight cross-border crime.
The TV2 news station reported on Thursday that exit polls, released minutes after voting finished at 8 p.m. local time (1900 UTC), showed that 52.8 percent of voters came out against the rules. Danish radio station DR put the 'no' vote at 53.3 percent.
The result of the referendum will determine whether or not the Danish public wish to further integrate into the EU and stay within the European cross-border security agency Europol.
When the EU as it now stands began to form in the early 1990s, Denmark, as well as the UK and Ireland, were all granted certain concessions for their participation in the now 28-member bloc. These included exemptions from specific laws concerning EU justice and home affairs.
'Can't solve it alone'
In the run up to the referendum, Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen's right-wing Liberal party, alongside its main opposition, the Social Democrats, encouraged the electorate to vote "Yes" and replace the current opt-out system with one in which Denmark could decide on a case-by-case basis whether to work with Europol.
"A 'Yes' is the safe choice. It ensures that we remain in Europol and can cooperate against crime," Rasmussen said, adding that "when we talk about cross-border crime like drug smuggling or human trafficking, we can't solve it alone in little Denmark."
The far-right populist Danish People's Party, which now represents the second-largest group in parliament, ardently supported the "No" campaign, however. They argued that giving up Denmark's exemption would be tantamount to handing over national sovereignty to Brussels.
Polls released ahead of the referendum showed that Danes were split almost evenly, with a large percentage still undecided.
Thursday's vote was of particular interest to politicians in the UK, where areferendum on remaining in the EU is due to be held before the end of 2017.
If Denmark's exit polls prove to be correct, British Prime Minister David Cameron could use the "No" win to show how other EU nations are discontent with the current state of the Union as he tries to renegotiate terms of his country's membership.
ksb/xx (Reuters, dpa)