In a bilateral meeting in Stockholm, Hans Dahlgren told Stephen Barclay, the UK's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, that Sweden was concerned by the new UK government's redoubled determination to leave the European Union on October 31st.
“It is serious that the risk of a hard Brexit has increased,” Dahlgren told The Local was the message he had conveyed to Barclay at the meeting, held on Friday afternoon at government offices.
“As you know, the British government has decided they are going to leave the EU on October 31st, deal or no deal, while we are insisting it is best for all parties concerned that we have orderly exit and that they leave with a deal.”
Dahlgren said that Barclay had in turn reiterated the UK's tough new position at the meeting.
“He said that this is going to happen. He said that unless there is an agreement, there is going to be a hard Brexit on October 31st.”
In interviews with Swedish media, Dahlgren said that Barclay had been very clear that the new government opposed the so-called “back-stop” arrangement guaranteeing that there would be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Stephen Barclay arriving at 10 Downing Street in London after Boris Johnson's appointment as PM. Photo: Matt Dunham/AP
A spokesperson for the British embassy in Stockholm said that Barclay and Dahlgren had also discussed safeguarding the rights of British citizens living in Sweden, and those of Swedes living in the UK.
“During his meeting with Minister for EU Affairs, Hans Dahlgren, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU discussed the protection of citizens' rights – both for British citizens living in Sweden, and for Swedish citizens living in the UK,” the spokesperson said. “They discussed how we can reach an agreement that works for everybody.“
But Dahlgren told The Local that the two sides had only “touched upon that briefly”.
“As you know, we have in Sweden taken decisions which will allow British citizens living in Sweden to continue to live here with a grace period of one year also after a hard Brexit, and we know that the new British government is planning similar decisions for Swedes and other European citizens who now live in the UK,” he said.
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However, he said that it remained unclear how the new British government would treat Swedish citizens who wanted to move to the UK for work after October 31st.
“The previous British government had made some openings for people coming to the UK after Brexit, and those statements have not yet been endorsed by the new government,” he said.
He told The Local that he had emphasized to Barclay the importance of coming to a quick decision on this. “First of all, we want to get information as soon as possible,” he said.
Dahlgren said he did not have any more information on how Sweden planned to treat British citizens living in Sweden once the one-year grace period was over.
“We have done what we need to do for those who are in Sweden now. What will happen to those who come here after the exit, I cannot comment on,” he added.
The UK has in the past been criticized for seeking to negotiate bilaterally with national governments over its departure from the European Union, but Dahlgren said that Barclay had not attempted to ask Sweden for support in Brussels.
“I think he understands that we are not as Sweden negotiating with the United Kingdom. It is the EU who is negotiating with the United Kingdom, though Mr Barnier,” he said. “He understands also that he cannot negotiate with the individual member states.”