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.”