In July, UKIP’s Nigel Farage offered the opinion that Sweden would be the next country to leave the European Union. That prophecy would come as a surprise to many Swedes, had they heard the prediction.
While it is true that Sweden is a fairly Eurosceptic country, there is zero chance that Sweden would leave the European Union. Our exports and imports are too tied up in the European markets for that. In 2015 we imported goods and services worth 1164 billion Swedish Crowns, and exported for 1181 billion Crowns.
Three quarters of our exports go to countries in Europe, and excluding Norway, most of them are in the EU. In general, it differs between different countries, we have a trade surplus with the rest of the world, and we’d like to keep it that way. Leaving the EU is a certain way to destroy our trade, since most of it goes to the EU.
The national interest of this exporting country is to keep the trade block together. That’s why there’s an establishment view in Sweden that the EU should drive a hard bargain with the UK as it leaves. No one demands a vindictive and punitive deal, but it’s in our interest to make sure to make it a hard road. Leaving the EU should not be cheap.
Immediately after the vote, Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven clarified the Swedish position. “One has to be clear that if one has left, then one has left. Then things aren’t as they were before. But it can’t be that one leaves and continues to have good benefits but without the obligations. It has to be felt that one is not a member.”
The government here has come under criticism from civic actors in Sweden, both within business and within the trade union movement, for not acting fast enough to convince British companies to come to Sweden for continued access to the single market. In Denmark, the government there set up a special task-force for this purpose just a few days after the vote.
Exploiting Brexit has become a local political hot potato as it has been used to support everything from expanding the country’s largest airport, Arlanda, to attacking the government on housing needed for potential brexit refugees, to demanding extra effort to secure research grants and academics as the UK loses out on EU science funding.
So, there is simply no way that Nigel Farage is right. We’re not leaving the European Union any time soon. Doing so would be suicidal to the economy, and much of civic Sweden has, in fact, started to use the potentials in Brexit as well as its dangers to argue that we need to do more in the union. Since the British vote, Swedish popular support for the EU has shot up sharply. We’re not even cowering under our beds from the immigration.
Sweden is possibly the most immigrant friendly country in Europe, and that’s after taking over 1 per cent of the entire population in refugees last year. In UK terms, that would be the equivalent of accepting 6.5 million immigrants instead of a few hundred thousand.
Of course, Nigel Farage would never suggest that this would be a reason for Sweden to commit economical suicide and alienate all our friends and partners…