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'It's unique': The Swedish view as Brexit talks move to the next stage

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'It's unique': The Swedish view as Brexit talks move to the next stage
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, right, talking to Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel at the summit in Brussels. Photo: AP Photo/Olivier Matthys
08:14 CEST+02:00
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven welcomed a deal to extend Brexit until October, and expressed delight that the UK was taking a leaf out of the Swedish political playbook.

EU leaders agreed in the early hours of Thursday to allow Britain to stay as a member state until October 31st. Without a postponement, Britain would have ended its 46-year membership of the EU at midnight on Friday with no deal, risking economic chaos on both sides of the Channel. 

"I am pleased. It's good to get an agreement. The alternative would have been a disorderly exit," Sweden's Social Democrat Prime Minister Löfven told public broadcaster SVT after six-hour talks with EU leaders.

Löfven also commended the UK for initiating cross-bloc talks between the political parties. The reluctance to do so at an earlier stage of the process may have come across as peculiar to many Swedes, where the practice of negotiation and consensus-building in a multi-party parliament is the traditional way of doing business.

"What's new this time is that talks between the Tories and Labour have started. We are used to this in Sweden and other countries, that that's how you do things. But in the UK it is not common. It's unique. This has not happened since World War Two," Löfven told SVT.

"It's a new situation and we want to give that situation a chance."

But May is under intense pressure from hardline Brexit supporters in her Conservative party not to compromise in her talks with Labour, and the discussions are moving slowly.

Addressing MPs back home, who have rejected her withdrawal text three times, she said after the summit: "The choices we now face are stark and the timetable is clear."

"So we must now press on at pace with our efforts to reach a consensus on a deal that is in the national interest." 

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May had originally asked for a delay until June 30th, but EU leaders had already agreed one delay from March 29th to April 12th, and EU Council President Donald Tusk had warned there was "little reason to believe" that MPs would ratify the Brexit deal within three months. 

The new extension has the option of leaving earlier than October 31st if British Prime Minister Theresa May can secure support in the UK parliament for her Brexit deal.

But the risk of a hard Brexit, while greatly reduced, still remains. If the UK does not take part in elections to the European Parliament on May 23rd, the country will have to leave the union by June 1st.

In Sweden, a number of initiatives have been put in place to accommodate Brits, including a decision by the Swedish Migration Agency to fast-track citizenship applications from UK nationals

If there's a no-deal Brexit, the Swedish government has also guaranteed a one-year exemption from work and residence permit requirements for Brits already resident in Sweden, as The Local has previously reported (but no, we still don't know what would happen after that one year).

There's no need to apply for this one-year grace period; the exemption from usual permit laws will apply automatically, but if you plan to travel during that year, you should apply for a passport stamp proving your right of residence.

 
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