Sweden steps up preparations for a no-deal Brexit

Sweden is stepping up preparations for a no-deal Brexit scenario, with EU minister Ann Linde saying the likelihood of such an outcome has "definitely increased".

Sweden steps up preparations for a no-deal Brexit
Sweden's EU minister Ann Linde speaking after this week's summit. Photo: Wiktor Nummelin / TT

She made her comments after the EU Brussels summit this week ended without a deal on Brexit.

With March 2019 getting closer and fewer opportunities to reach a deal after this summit, a possible 'no-deal' outcome needs to be kept in mind — though according to Ann Linde, it's a question of a deal taking longer than expected, rather than a “breakdown”.

She said discussion of a no-deal outcome had “increased noticeably over the past weeks, both from the side of the EU and member countries”.

In Sweden, this means that companies and authorities need to prepare for the UK leaving the EU without a deal, Linde said, adding that ministries had been asked to investigate what would happen if Britons were considered third-country nationals after the UK leaves the EU.

“Can they carry on going to university, will they get healthcare? What happens in Gothenburg's port when suddenly all the customs declarations need to go through?” she said.

“It is obvious that it would have clear consequences in certain areas,” said Jan Olsson, Sweden's head coordinator for Brexit issues.

He highlighted EU citizens' rights, customs procedures, aviation and finance as among the key areas where work is being carried out.

“Corresponding work is going on in all member states and in the EU Commission; in many cases the authority lies at an EU level. We are working closely together,” he said. Areas where the EU Commission is responsible include potential problems linked to pharmaceuticals and air traffic.

“If you have an overnight exit, the effect is that the UK will be like any other third country which we don't have a deal with,” explained Olsson.

One concrete problem is dealing with customs and border checks, but Olsson said this was more an issue of capacity and resources rather than a new set of problems arising from Brexit.

“You have to establish something that isn't currently there. You have to carry out rules and procedures which exist, but in a much larger capacity than has been done earlier, because it's quite a big trade partner which in this case would get a changed status,” he said. 

According to Linde, Swedish Customs would get more funding since authorities will have more work to do under any kind of Brexit scenario. She has also called on all sectors to look carefully at what a hard Brexit, with no agreed deal with the EU, would involve.

“All companies which have exports to the UK need to ask themselves if they'll be affected. There isn't comprehensive understanding of this in the Swedish business sector. You really have to look at whether you will be affected if rules change, and how the company would be affected. Because it could be a substantial change.”



Member comments

  1. From Quora: “Not in European Union :Albania, Armenia. Belarus, Gibraltar, Iceland, Kosovo, Lechtenstein, Macedonia, Norway, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vatican City State (Holy See). UK(BREXIT) to be included soon.” Is it really that difficult? It seems to be working okay for Norway and Switzerland.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


How Europe’s population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

The populations of countries across Europe are changing, with some increasing whilst others are falling. Populations are also ageing meaning the EU is having to react to changing demographics.

How Europe's population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

After decades of growth, the population of the European Union decreased over the past two years mostly due to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest data from the EU statistical office Eurostat show that the EU population was 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, 172,000 fewer than the previous year. On 1 January 2020, the EU had a population of 447.3 million.

This trend is because, in 2020 and 2021 the two years marked by the crippling pandemic, there have been more deaths than births and the negative natural change has been more significant than the positive net migration.

But there are major differences across countries. For example, in numerical terms, Italy is the country where the population has decreased the most, while France has recorded the largest increase.

What is happening and how is the EU reacting?

In which countries is the population growing?

In 2021, there were almost 4.1 million births and 5.3 million deaths in the EU, so the natural change was negative by 1.2 million (more broadly, there were 113,000 more deaths in 2021 than in 2020 and 531,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, while the number of births remained almost the same).

Net migration, the number of people arriving in the EU minus those leaving, was 1.1 million, not enough to compensate.

A population growth, however, was recorded in 17 countries. Nine (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands and Sweden) had both a natural increase and positive net migration.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Five things to know about Germany’s foreign population

In eight EU countries (the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Austria, Portugal and Finland), the population increased because of positive net migration, while the natural change was negative.

The largest increase in absolute terms was in France (+185,900). The highest natural increase was in Ireland (5.0 per 1,000 persons), while the biggest growth rate relative to the existing population was recorded in Luxembourg, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta (all above 8.0 per 1,000 persons).

In total, 22 EU Member States had positive net migration, with Luxembourg (13.2 per 1 000 persons), Lithuania (12.4) and Portugal (9.6) topping the list.

Births and deaths in the EU from 1961 to 2021 (Eurostat)

Where is the population declining?

On the other hand, 18 EU countries had negative rates of natural change, with deaths outnumbering births in 2021.

Ten of these recorded a population decline. In Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia population declined due to a negative natural change, while net migration was slightly positive.

In Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia, the decrease was both by negative natural change and negative net migration.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

The largest fall in population was reported in Italy, which lost over a quarter of a million (-253,100).

The most significant negative natural change was in Bulgaria (-13.1 per 1,000 persons), Latvia (-9.1), Lithuania (-8.7) and Romania (-8.2). On a proportional basis, Croatia and Bulgaria recorded the biggest population decline (-33.1 per 1,000 persons).

How is the EU responding to demographic change?

From 354.5 million in 1960, the EU population grew to 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, an increase of 92.3 million. If the growth was about 3 million persons per year in the 1960s, it slowed to about 0.7 million per year on average between 2005 and 2022, according to Eurostat.

The natural change was positive until 2011 and turned negative in 2012 when net migration became the key factor for population growth. However, in 2020 and 2021, this no longer compensated for natural change and led to a decline.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Over time, says Eurostat, the negative natural change is expected to continue given the ageing of the population if the fertility rate (total number of children born to each woman) remains low.

This poses questions for the future of the labour market and social security services, such as pensions and healthcare.

The European Commission estimates that by 2070, 30.3 per cent of the EU population will be 65 or over compared to 20.3 per cent in 2019, and 13.2 per cent is projected to be 80 or older compared to 5.8 per cent in 2019.

The number of people needing long-term care is expected to increase from 19.5 million in 2016 to 23.6 million in 2030 and 30.5 million in 2050.

READ ALSO: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

However, demographic change impacts different countries and often regions within the same country differently.

When she took on the Presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen appointed Dubravka Šuica, a Croatian politician, as Commissioner for Democracy and Demography to deal with these changes.

Among measures in the discussion, in January 2021, the Commission launched a debate on Europe’s ageing society, suggesting steps for higher labour market participation, including more equality between women and men and longer working lives.

In April, the Commission proposed measures to make Europe more attractive for foreign workers, including simplifying rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the EU. These will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the Commission also plans to present a communication on dealing with ‘brain drain’ and mitigate the challenges associated with population decline in regions with low birth rates and high net emigration.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.