Why Swedish Eurosceptics are hoping for Brexit

Why Swedish Eurosceptics are hoping for Brexit
Britain's upcoming referendum is being watched closely in Sweden. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
The head of a Swedish anti-European Union campaign group says a Leave vote from Britain on June 23rd could give Eurosceptics in the Nordic country the thrust needed to push for their own referendum on EU membership.

A recent survey by US-based Pew Research Centre suggests that Sweden are the European nation most convinced that a British departure would seriously hurt the union. Some anti-EU campaigners in the smaller nation are hoping that the concern Brexit could case would create a breeding ground for future questions over Sweden’s EU membership.

“Evidently we would have a lot more wind under our wings if Brexit happens,” Jan-Erik Gustafsson, chairman of No to EU (Nej till EU) told news agency TT.

The Eurosceptic also said that his belief in a possible ‘Swexit’ has been strengthened by “inspiring” campaign meetings in Sweden in the build-up to Britain’s referendum.

Gustafsson has an uphill battle ahead of him however. The most recent figures from Swedish national number-crunchers Statistics Sweden show that 49 percent of voters in the country are in favour of EU membership, while just under 24 percent consider themselves against the EU.

There is some evidence that could change in the event of a Leave vote on June 23rd however. In a survey carried out by SVT News and TNS Sifo in April, 36 percent of participants said they would become opponents of the EU if Britain opts to leave. In the same survey, only 32 percent said they would want Sweden to stay in the EU even if Brexit occurs.

And according to one expert, the forthcoming British referendum will have an impact on public opinion in Sweden regardless of the outcome.

“The EU will be changed by this, as well as for other reasons in the coming years,” Göran von Sydow, deputy director of the Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies told TT.

One scenario the researcher thinks would spark talk of Swexit is future pressure on Sweden to join the single currency.

“In that kind of development people would have to ask themselves ‘What does Sweden want with its EU membership?’,” he predicted.

For a Swedish referendum on EU membership to occur there would need to be a proposal in the Riskdag which was then approved by a simple majority. And there is little suggestion that will happen in the near future, according to Anders Sannerstedt, associate professor of political science at Lund University.

“It’s only the Left Party and the Sweden Democrats pushing the question, if even they are,” he noted.