“We don't really want [a no-deal Brexit] to happen. But if it does, and there is a serious risk that it might, then we feel that we are pretty well prepared for that situation,” Hans Dahlgren told The Local. “It doesn't mean that would be without problems.”
As The Local has previously reported, the Swedish government has decided to offer a one-year 'grace period' in the event of a no-deal Brexit, meaning that British citizens and their families already resident in Sweden could continue living and working in the country with most of the same rights for 12 months, without needing to apply for any additional permit.
Asked what rules or permits would apply to Brits after this one-year period in a no-deal Brexit scenario, Dahlgren said: “That's not clear yet, that is something that would have to be worked out after this period. There are a lot of countries outside the EU and they don't all have similar rules so that's something we'd have to negotiate.”
Hans Dahlgren was appointed EU minister in 2019. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
One group whose status would be uncertain is Brits working in companies that do not meet the conditions required to offer third-country work permits, for example smaller startup companies without a collective bargaining agreement (kollektivavtal). Sweden's largest business federation has warned that many Brits risk not having their permits approved if these are processed under existing legislation.
“During the grace period there's going to be no change. But after that, I cannot answer that question because we don't know exactly what the rules will be at that time,” explained Dahlgren. “That's why we have this grace period, in order to have time to work these things out.”
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The same applies to Brits who moved to Sweden using their EU freedom of movement but do not meet the usual requirements for a residence permit as a third country citizen, such as retirees or self-supporting people, the minister said.
“The question of who will be eligible for a work permit or a residence permit after the grace period is something I don't have any answers on today,” Dahlgren told The Local.
He added that the government would be prepared to take further decisions on the status of Brits during the one-year grace period in order to resolve any problems that arose during that year.
“I'm sure that during the negotiations that follow, we'll make every effort to facilitate for UK citizens now living in Sweden to have as easy an access to this country as possible. But the details of this have to be worked out during this grace period,” the minister said. “A lot of things can be done in one year and if there are remaining problems I'm sure they can be worked out.”
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While any withdrawal agreement with the UK must be agreed between the country and the EU as a whole, EU member states have been able to decide individually what rights, if any, to offer Brits in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The most generous offer is from Malta, which has said all UK citizens resident on the date of a no-deal Brexit would receive 10-year status in the country, while sources at one rights group have said Italy is considering offering British residents the right to remain for life. Some countries have said Brits would need to meet income criteria in order to receive a residence permit.
“We cannot negotiate with the Brits about a situation after a hard Brexit before it has happened because we cannot have double negotiations. We are now in a discussion about an organized withdrawal and that's our main focus. If that fails, then we will deal with the problems,” Dahlgren said.
Dahlgren, who himself spent a summer working in a sweet shop in Wales as well as a stint as a TV and radio correspondent in London in the 1960s and 70s, emphasized that Sweden and the UK have historically enjoyed close ties, and that he expected this to continue after Brexit.
“I'm sure we will have a good exchange of people: workers and students and in all walks of life, in the future. But the rules will be different because it will be a third country,” he said. “There is no sense of revenge here. We regret the outcome of the referendum but we will build on what we have.”
Thank you to those who submitted questions for this interview. If you have more questions about how Brexit will affect you, please email [email protected] and we'll try our best to get answers. And if you would like to see more interviews with key players about the issues that affect internationals in Sweden, please consider becoming a Member of The Local. Big thanks to existing Members – your support is invaluable.