Swedish EU ambassador: ‘I believe it is possible to avoid a no-deal Brexit’

A senior Swedish EU diplomat has called for common sense in Brexit talks, as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepares for a political showdown in parliament.

Swedish EU ambassador: 'I believe it is possible to avoid a no-deal Brexit'
Campaigners outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Tuesday. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Sweden's EU ambassador Lars Danielsson warned time was running out for Britain, with less than two months to go to the deadline for the country to leave the EU, but told The Local he was holding out hope.

“I'm paid to be an optimist,” he said. “I believe that it is possible to avoid a Brexit without a deal, but of course the risk has increased.”

“But you would still think that there ought to be some kind of common sense that lets all parties involved sit down and talk. Because they haven't, for a very long time.”

The Local met Danielsson in Stockholm just a day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to prorogue parliament – a highly controversial move seen by its critics as a way of pushing through a no-deal Brexit through without members of parliament blocking the UK's exit.

Lars Danielsson. Photo: Kristian Pohl/Regeringskansliet

Danielsson, 66, a seasoned diplomat and civil servant from Halmstad in southern Sweden, has previously served as Sweden's consul general to Hong Kong and Macau, and ambassador to South Korea and Germany, before taking up the position as permanent representative of Sweden to the EU in 2016.

Asked whether he was surprised by the Conservative prime minister's move to suspend parliament, he first stressed “it is not for me to review”, then added, smiling: “But I have seen Boris Johnson as a foreign minister in the EU's foreign affairs council, so I have stopped being surprised.”

“He is a very colourful politician.”

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said this week he was “not optimistic” about the UK's chances of avoiding a no-deal, reiterating that the union would not be willing to renegotiate the so-called Irish backstop – a mechanism intended to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Political leaders fear that the return to a hard border could threaten the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to Northern Ireland after years of armed conflict.

Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged lawmakers to back him. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA via AP

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson faced a potential rebellion in parliament, where MPs were set to debate an emergency motion later on Tuesday to allow the opposition and rebel Tories to help prevent a no-deal.

“There is a certain surprise that the process in the United Kingdom has been such that the British government when negotiating did not ensure that they were able to get that which was negotiated through parliament,” said Danielsson when asked if he and his colleagues were surprised by the political turmoil in recent years.

“We have learned to appreciate and respect the British public system, and I think many are a little bit disappointed and are wondering what happened. But there is also a lot of tolerance (among EU leaders and civil servants) for the fact that domestic politics sometimes play a big part, that's life.”


Sweden has said it is working together with the EU commission and with other EU member states to minimise the economic impact of Britain leaving without a deal. Last week Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson and EU Minister Hans Dahlgren insisted the Nordic country was “well-prepared” to face a no-deal Brexit.

But the situation for Brits in Sweden after an initial one-year grace period immediately following Brexit remains unclear, with campaign groups calling on the Swedish government to clarify the rules.

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The difficulties of moving to Sweden as a non-EU spouse… even if you marry a Swedish princess

Sweden's Princess Madeleine and her British-American husband, Chris O'Neill, are returning to Sweden after living in Florida since 2018. But how can Chris move to Sweden as a non-EU citizen?

The difficulties of moving to Sweden as a non-EU spouse... even if you marry a Swedish princess

Princess Madeleine and Chris O’Neill are moving back to Sweden with their three children in August. We hope they like it here.

Unfortunately for O’Neill, some things have changed since he left Sweden in 2015. Brits are no longer EU citizens, which means he’ll have to apply for a residence permit like all the other non-EU citizens planning a move to Sweden.

Unlike before, when O’Neill could live in Sweden as a self-sufficient EU citizen with comprehensive health insurance, there’s no such option for non-EU citizens, meaning he’ll have to fulfil the criteria for a non-EU residence permit (uppehållstillstånd), apply from abroad, and potentially wait for his permit to be processed before he can enter Sweden.

With waiting times well over a year for both family reunification permits and work permits, planning a move to Sweden in just a few months might be a bit… optimistic.

What options does Chris O’Neill have?

The most obvious route for O’Neill to take is a residence permit for moving to someone in Sweden, sometimes also referred to as a sambo permit.

O’Neill qualifies for this, as he is married to a Swedish citizen. His wife must also be able to support him and his three children. According to the Migration Agency, this maintenance requirement is fulfilled if the family member in Sweden has enough money to pay for their home, as well as living costs for the family.

The Migration Agency states more specifically that the Swedish family member must earn 9,445 kronor per month to support a couple living together, plus 3,055 kronor per month for each child under the age of six and 3,667 kronor for each child aged between 7 and 10 years old.

The couple’s children are aged 5, 7 and 9, meaning that Madeleine will need earnings of at least 19,834 kronor a month (after tax) on top of housing costs in order to fulfil this requirement. She can also fulfil this requirement by having enough savings to support the entire family for at least two years – so a mere 476,016 kronor, plus whatever their housing costs will be for the two-year period.

Let’s assume that she can cover the family’s living costs – she’s a member of the Swedish royal family, after all. 

Next, Madeleine needs to have a home “of a suitable size and standard” for the family to live in together.

The Swedish Migration Agency states that a family consisting of two adults needs to have an apartment with a minimum of one room and a kitchen or kitchenette, with more rooms necessary if the family has children. Two children can share one room, it states, meaning that O’Neill and Madeleine need a room with at least three rooms, one kitchen and one bathroom for them and their three children.

The family’s seven-room apartment by Nybroplan in Stockholm is definitely “of a suitable size”, and after a six million kronor renovation a few years ago we can assume that the standard is up to scratch.

O’Neill will also have to provide proof of identity with a valid passport. He’s a citizen of the US and the UK, so here he can choose whichever passport he prefers.

Great, so Madeleine and Chris O’Neill easily fulfil the requirements. 

What are the next steps? 

Firstly, as Madeleine is a Swedish citizen planning on moving to Sweden with a family member who does not hold EU citizenship, the couple will need to prove that they are planning on moving to Sweden “within the near future”. They can do this by providing a housing contract or a job offer, or presumably a press statement from the Swedish royal family stating their plans to move over in August.

O’Neill can’t move to Sweden until his application has been processed, but he is allowed to visit Sweden for up to 90 days at a time, and, as a citizen of a visa-free country, he doesn’t need a visa to do so.

He may also need to visit a Swedish embassy abroad in order to undertake an interview before his application can be processed.

With the family planning on enrolling their children in Swedish schools this autumn, it looks like Chris and Madeleine – like many couples consisting of a Swede and a non-EU citizen – will have to live apart, with Chris separated from his children for months at a time.

In that time, he won’t be eligible for a Swedish personal number, Swedish healthcare, or any other benefits such as sick leave or VAB.

He’ll also have trouble getting BankID or opening a Swedish bank account (unless he already has one from last time they lived in Sweden), and may struggle to get a gym membership, phone contract, or even a membership card at the local ICA (do husbands of princesses do their own food shopping?)

As a British citizen applying for a residence permit for the first time to move to someone in Sweden for the first time who he has been living together with outside Sweden for at least two years, O’Neill can expect to wait around 15 months. Now, that figure isn’t a guide – technically, only 75 percent of recently closed cases matching those criteria were concluded within 15 months – so he could have a much longer or much shorter wait before he’s reunited with his family.

You may be thinking ‘but he’s a successful businessman, can’t he just apply as a self-employed person’? Well, yes, if he wants, but then he’ll be waiting even longer – 75 percent of recently closed cases for permits as a self-employed person got an answer within 29 months.