EU on brink: Leaders misread lessons in aftermath of Brexit to spark Sweden exit fear

Eurosceptic party calling for 'SWEXIT NOW' leading polls

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Sweden was plunged into political crisis earlier this month after its Prime Minister Stefan Lofven faced a vote of confidence inside the nation’s Parliament. Mr Lofven was forced to resign from his post last week after he clashed with allies over housing policy, but secured a swift return as leader – in a narrow 176 to 173 vote win. Reflecting on his reinstatement, Mr Lofven admitted the “work to move Sweden forward begins again now”, adding: “We must now continue our work to build a stronger, safer and more equal country.”

Serious question marks had been raised and fears a snap election could be called, but although tensions have simmered for now, Mr Lofven will continue to face calls to ensure the nation is improved.

Rivals from the anti-EU political party the Swedish Democrats have also called into question Sweden’s place in the bloc.

The party has gained a huge surge in popularity, and Sweden are viewed in some quarters as the most likely nation to follow the UK’s lead and quit Brussels in the future.

They are unhappy with some immigration policy the European Commission, led by President Ursula von der Leyen, demand, as well as other aspects of the EU’s leadership.

After the UK’s referendum on its membership with the EU, which the Leave campaign successfully won over its Remain counterparts, David Wemer – a Europe Fellow at Young Professionals in Foreign Policy – claimed key figures inside Brussels were not understanding why the vote went the way it did.

He argued that if they did not change their tact and listen to why the British public had opted to leave, other nations such as Sweden could be tempted by a move away.

Writing in 2016 for the Diplomatic Courier, Mr Wemer noted how “European leaders are already misreading the lessons of Brexit”.

He continued: “Rather than acknowledging the vote as a rebuke of the European Union’s political structure, politicians have portrayed the Union as a victim of rising populism.

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“In response, many in Paris, Madrid, Rome, and Berlin are advocating for further integration to alleviate the economic and political grievances animating populist forces. The rise of populism, however, played only a minor role in Britain, and further integration could force countries like Sweden to consider leaving the Union as well.

“Brexit was successful because it capitalised on long-standing British discomfort with extensive political and financial integration, a stance Sweden has long shared.”

Mr Wemer added: “Further integration may save the project of transnationalism, but it would do so only at the expense of excluding members like Sweden and would doom the idea of European unity to a handful of core nations.”

The expert also examined how Sweden would be “facing political isolation” without the UK and that if it began “feeling the pressure to cede more sovereignty to Brussels” the politicians in Sweden “may look to leave the Union”.

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He concluded: “In the United Kingdom, it was ultimately an alliance between populist anger and conservative elite opposition to an ‘ever closer union’ that won the referendum. This scenario could easily be repeated in Sweden, Denmark, and even the new Eastern European states.

“Perhaps more concerning, a gridlock between integrationist and anti-integration member states could cripple the already dysfunctional EU system, further deteriorating support for the Union throughout the continent.”

Cathrine Danin – a senior analyst for Stockholm’s leading financial institution Swedbank – also claimed there was reason to believe that her country could follow a similar path to Britain.

Among the concerns Ms Danin – who was speaking before the Brexit vote – had, was a fear Sweden could lose its influence in the EU without Britain by its side.

This in turn, Ms Danin argued, could also see Sweden join the eurozone.

In a report regarding the financial implications Brexit could have for Sweden, Ms Danin noted that some countries already in the euro “prefer deeper integration” and that the UK quitting Brussels “could isolate nations like Sweden”.

She added: “This could force Sweden to seek closer relationships with the UK, Norway and possibly Denmark at the expense of the EU.

“In the medium to longer term, therefore, we might expect a more fragmented Europe that will develop at different speeds.”

When Brexit was being discussed in the UK, a poll by TNS Sifo in Sweden found that 36 percent would be in favour of Stockholm quitting the EU, while 32 percent were against.

It was also revealed that 90 percent of people also thought Brexit would be a bad thing for the bloc – and in particular Sweden.

Per Tryding, deputy chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Southern Sweden claimed a Brexit vote would make Sweden look differently at the UK, a nation it “holds up as a role model”.

He said “Swedes are a little bit in love with the UK”, but after Brexit “the rules of the game will be unknown”, adding: “What are the real conditions if we do business with or invest in Britain in future?

“That insecurity will make people shy away from investment.”

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