• Sweden's news in English
Opinion - Brexit
'This is why Sweden and the Nordics fear Brexit'
What do Swedes think of Brexit? Photo: AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda/Natacha Pisarenko

'This is why Sweden and the Nordics fear Brexit'

The Local · 1 Mar 2016, 06:59

Published: 01 Mar 2016 06:59 GMT+01:00

Ever since its inception in 1957, the EU has added one country after the other to its community. The United Kingdom joined in the big wave of 1973 along with Denmark, and Sweden came close to tagging along at the time, before eventually joining in 1995. The club has now reached 28 members.

But still, it's always the speculations about exits that trigger the most debate. Denmark has also been close to checking out, but the EU has always solved individual countries' scepticism in the same way, namely with patient flexibility. In fact, the EU has never actually forced itself on a member state and has been keen to seek compromises with the sceptics. However this is not an altogether uncontroversial strategy.

Some say that it is better to let sceptical nations go and focus on a smaller, hard core of ever-deeper integration. This was the big debate in the EU ahead of the eastern enlargement. But the Nordics and the UK pushed for a quick expansion of the EU and got what they wished for.

There is therefore a certain irony in the fact that this enlargement forms the basis of the referendum on a potential Brexit. Eastern European immigrants have probably played the biggest part in fuelling the UK's anti-EU party Ukip's successes and Ukip's polling figures were probably what in turn made its prime minister David Cameron risk a referendum. To the Nordic region, Brexit would definitely be a big setback both politically and financially, even if the political similarities are sometimes exaggerated.

The UK is one of Sweden's most important trading partners and Brexit would over time erode that relationship to the cost of billions for both parties. Culturally, the Brits have their biggest fans in the Nordic countries. You could say that Scandinavians are so in love with British culture that we sometimes find it difficult to see the flaws that do of course exist.

This is also the reason why the Nordics fear Brexit. It would give eurosceptics an enormous moral boost in the region. This despite the fact that the EU's critics in the UK – or mainly in England – are mainly found on the right of the political spectrum whereas they tend to be on the left in the Nordics.

The author of the article, Per Tryding. Photo: Lars Lydig

Regardless of its outcome, the referendum spells a political change for the UK. Referenda even on other issues could now become, following the votes on independence in Scotland and on the EU, more difficult to reject. And the relationship with the EU will also change. The Brits' scepticism towards Brussels is now determined by the people rather than the politicians and this is going to shift the dynamics of the debate.

For Britain, Brexit would mean a number of things. Financially it would without doubt be a major setback. The membership in 1973 was overshadowed by a dark economical period for the nation, but access to the inner market was an important reason why it bounced back in the 1980s. The EU contributes to half of the country's exports, so it is no small thing to create uncertainty when it comes to access to the EU's customers. Some sort of compensation agreement, similar to the one Switzerland has, will surely be created, but the Brits will then become passive subjects to other people's rules and not their co-creators.

And how relationships within the UK will change, between Scotland, Wales and England, is above all an open question. Perhaps it will no longer be possible to hold the union together if the Scots, who are highly dependent on the EU for exports and culturally just a bit closer to the EU, would rather move closer to the EU than to the UK.

Story continues below…

Maybe the British government will have to offer different parts of the nation their own federation-like structure if the public votes to leave the European Union. A potential Brexit would likely change the EU less than it would affect Britain itself.

But the major strategic issue is more about the British, and indeed the European, self-image. How much weight do we really pull in a growing world? The UK is a major part of the EU, to be sure, and the EU is bigger than the UK, but increasingly smaller in the world.

This opinion piece was written exclusively for The Local by Per Tryding, deputy CEO of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Southern Sweden.

For more news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Today's headlines
Brexit: Swedes in the UK
'My Swedish friends and I talk about moving to Scotland'
Moving further north is one post-Brexit option touted by a UK-based Swede The Local spoke to. Photo: Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/TT Hasse Holmberg/TT

The Local speaks to UK-based Swedes on the impact they think Brexit will have on their lives and their future plans in the country.

Sweden wins seat on UN Security Council
Foreign Minister Margot Wallström and UN Ambassador Olof Skoog beam as Sweden wins its seat. Photo: Pontus Lundahl

A dream come true for Sweden's government.

Swedish billionaire missing at sea
Christer Ericsson has been missing since Monday. Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT

A high profile Swedish businessman is missing at sea after a boat accident near Marstrand off the Gothenburg coast.

Ikea to recall chests of drawers after child deaths
The drawers are only being recalled in the US and Canada. Photo: Cornelius Poppe/NTB scanpix/TT

The Swedish furniture giant will recall a popular chest of drawers model in North America after six children were crushed to death.

Swedish stocks rebound from post-Brexit collapse
The interior of the Stockholm Stock Exchange. Photo: Fredrik Sanberg/TT

On Tuesday the Stockholm Stock Exchange started to bounce back from a Brexit-inspired worst day of trading since 1986.

Man shot dead in Stockholm suburb
A police technician examines the scene in Tensta. Photo: Johan Jeppsson/TT

Swedish police were kept busy on Monday night after a fatal shooting in Stockholm, an attempted murder in Malmö, and a spate of car fires in Gothenburg.

Euro 2016
The humble Swede who sent England home from Euro 2016
Iceland's Swedish coach Lars Lagerbäck. Photo: Ciaran Farey/AP/TT

Is Swede Lars Lagerbäck, who guided Iceland to victory over England at Euro 2016, the world's best football coach?

Sweden must discuss banning religious schools: minister
Aida Hadzialic. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

Some schools are segregating boys and girls, the minister says.

Opinion - Brexit
'The EU must not become Britain’s hostage'
David Cameron also comes under fire in the Sydsvenskan editorial. Photo: Matt Dunham/AP/TT

Britain should not be allowed to delay the initiation of its withdrawal from the European Union, argues Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan.

Citizenship applications up 500% for Brits in Sweden
A Swedish passport. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Last week saw a record increase as Britain voted to leave the EU.

Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
Property of the week: Torhamn
Sponsored Article
How to find student housing in Malmö: 5 tips
'A morning of sorrow': Sweden reacts to Brexit vote
Sweden opposition cools talk of 'Swexit' poll
Blog updates

17 June

Queen’s Birthday Stockholm 2016: 9th June. 90th Birthday. 900 Guests! (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"What do you do when you read that the Queen’s 90th Birthday in London will be…" READ »


10 June

i lördags, på lördag – time phrases for present, past and future (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! Swedish time phrases can be difficult to master. It takes a lot of practice to…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Stockholm school celebrates Nepal Project success
'Devastated' - Brits in Sweden shocked by Brexit vote
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
People-watching: June 22nd
The Local Voices
'Swedes don't treat me differently because I wear a hijab'
How do Swedes celebrate Midsummer?
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Coming soon: Sweden’s smelly fermented fish
Assange lawyer: Sweden should recognize UN opinion
The Local Voices
Why is this Syrian dentist who hugs like a Swede worried about undies?
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Swedish nationalist 'shot and ate' lion and giraffe
Sponsored Article
The man behind Sweden's biggest music festival
Analysis & Opinion
'Sweden's residency revamp is harmful and inhumane'
Photo: The Local
The Local Voices
UNHCR boss: 'It's hard to start your life without your family'
Sponsored Article
US expats: Have you met your tax deadlines?
VIDEO: Brits in Europe say why UK should stay
Sponsored Article
Malmö: Home to the best food in Sweden?
Photo: Marko Risović
The Local Voices
World Refugee Day: Searching for safety in Europe - in pictures
Sponsored Article
VIDEO: Why Malmö is the world's 6th best city for biking
Is Swedish nationalists’ foreign food ban bananas?
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
Property of the week: Söråker
Poll shows huge support for EU in Sweden
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
The Local Voices
How a Syrian scuba diver mobilized Sweden's biggest asylum centre
Zlatan: 'If we'd been fighting for real, he'd be in hospital'
The Local Voices
Orlando reflections: Is it possible to be gay and Muslim?
Sweden to go ahead with migrant age tests
People-watching: June 17th-19th
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at: