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OPINION & ANALYSIS

Opinion: Who will be crowned the Lucia of the Brexit election?

Does a Swedish symbol of light herald the end of the saga of Brexit, asks British writer and PhD student Sarah Campbell in this opinion piece for The Local.

Opinion: Who will be crowned the Lucia of the Brexit election?
Jeremy Corbyn, left, and Boris Johnson. Photo: Modified by The Local based on AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth/Matt Dunham/Jazzanna/Depositphotos.com

When a (presumably by now rather contrite) David Cameron pitched his idea for the dystopian reality series that became Brexit, even he probably didn't imagine that it would be commissioned for such a long run, or that it would conclude in such an extraordinary and improbable cliffhanger.

Not since the epic Britpop chart battle of 1995 has the nation been so polarized by a feud between a slightly scruffy, city-dwelling pacifist and a messy-haired loudmouth with a turbulent relationship with his brother and a reputation for givin' it all that.

But as we head towards what Mr Johnson would have us believe is the season finale on December 12th, the mood in the UK seems to be less 'hazy festival days with a six-pack of lager', and more 'stockpile a six-pack of beans, we might need them come January'.

For those who live in a different country to the one they grew up in, like the 25,000 odd British citizens who've made a home in Sweden, there can be strange sense of detachment from the politics of the country of origin. Watching from afar, heavily invested, yet also disconcertingly distant, living between two worlds, with the unnerving (and ultimately unjustified) feeling that we have no right to comment on the running of either.

But sometimes, two worlds collide. And for the British in Sweden, there can surely be no more perfectly aligned collision of civilizations than that which awaits on this Friday 13th.

Indeed, for us and everyone else who has watched with open mouthed incredulity over the last three years as the saga of Brexit has taken an exhausted Europe through more improbable plot twists than a Midsomer Murders Christmas special, it may surprise you to learn that it won't be John Nettles who finally brings the case to a close, but rather one Sankta Lucia.

Stick with me here.

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December 13th, the day the results of the British General Election roll in, is, as any Swede knows, also the celebration of St Lucia. On Lucia's day, Sweden celebrates the return of light to the darkness of winter.

Indeed, in schools, preschools and workplaces up and down the land, the Lucia song is sung, and in one version, we sing of light returning to 'our dark house'.

When, let me ask you, has 'our House', the House of Commons, been darker than it is today? More lost, fumbling and in desperate need of someone to light the path ahead of us and restore order to the home of parliament?

Whether you identify as a remainer or leaver, whatever your party affiliation, whoever you are inclined to vote for, it can hardly be denied that British politics needs to move towards calm, it needs clarity, lucid thought, and more than anything, light at the end of the tunnel.

Because, joking aside (and if the last three years have taught us one thing, it's that we really need a don't know whether to laugh or cry emoji), the division, turmoil and chaos which exists in British politics today is no soap opera.

For Britons, both in the UK and abroad, and for EU citizens in Britain, this is about real lives, and the fog of uncertainty brought on since the 2016 referendum, has seemed impenetrable at times, and it hangs above and around us, refusing to clear.

So thank goodness for Lucia, enduring symbol of light, sweeping in with her crown of flames and her merry band of candle-bearing attendants.


Traditional, non politics-related, Lucia celebrations in Sweden. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

And if you're not convinced that this metaphor really works and that Lucia heralds the end of the Brexit dominated drama then consider this; the other thing to remember about Lucia day is that you have to get up very very early. Just as you need to do to see the election results rolling in. Coincidence? Hardly!

But can Lucia foretell exactly which party will win the election? Let's consider the evidence. Lucia always wears a red sash and is accompanied by stjärngossar – star boys. Could this be a sign that the pro EU Labour faction will be ushered in on this day of light at the end of the Brexit tunnel?

Perhaps. But wait.

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On Lucia, fika is always a lussebulle, unmistakably yellow from the saffron. Does the combo of Lucia's red sash and the yellow baked goods foretell a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition?

Still not convinced that Sweden's favourite midwinter festival is so inextricably linked to the 2019 British General Election that this coincidence simply cannot be ignored?

Well get this: in an ancient version of the Lucia traditions, it was traditional to stay awake all night from the 12th into the 13th doing what was called a lussevaka – a vigil designed to ensure evil forces did not get into your House (of Parliament, remember?). Indeed, in Sweden, the habit of staying up into the small hours to watch any election results roll in is called a valvaka or election vigil.

So, further proof if any were needed that if we stay up late and do a lussevalvaka, the light of a Labour Lib-Dem coalition will usurp the darkness of uncertainty on the morning of December 13th, 2019. And maybe lussevalvaka will become a late contender for årets nyord. We can but hope.

Disclaimer: other theories may apply and other slightly forced cross-cultural metaphors may exist.

But whichever box the UK places its X in on December 12th, even the bitterest of rivals must surely be united in the hope that a brighter future lies ahead for the land which so many of us have called home.

Sarah Campbell is a PhD student and author of Swedish for Parents.

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READER QUESTIONS

Do ‘self-sufficient’ Brits in Sweden need to buy health insurance?

Several readers have complained to The Local that the UK leaving the European Union means that they are being forced to keep paying for health insurance longer than they would have under EU rules. Sweden's Migration Agency told The Local this was unnecessary.

Do 'self-sufficient' Brits in Sweden need to buy health insurance?

EU citizens who do not work, study or have families in Sweden can still stay in the country longer than three months if they can demonstrate that they are self-supporting. This requires them to have a comprehensive health insurance as well as a guaranteed income from overseas or sufficient savings. 

Once an EU citizen gets registered, or folkbokförd, and obtains a Swedish personal number, they no longer have to pay health insurance.

But several Britons who have post-Brexit residence on the basis of being “self-supporting”, told The Local that they believed that they had to continue paying health insurance premiums of as much as 50,000 kronor a year if they wanted to fulfil the conditions for living in Sweden legally and so qualify for permanent right of residence (permanent uppehållsrätt), or citizenship. 

“As a sixty-one year old person categorised as self-supporting in Sweden, I must pay almost 50,000 kronor per annum for health insurance,” wrote Simon, a Briton living in Värmland. “A yearly increase of 10 percent for the years until I’m eligible for citizenship is unsustainable. If the proposal for an eight-year wait until one can apply for citizenship is implemented, it’s even more so. If Britain remained in the EU such insurance wouldn’t be required.” 

When The Local contacted Sweden’s Migration Agency about this, they said that Simon appeared to be misinformed. 

“People who are registered as living in Sweden (folkbokförd) are covered by the Swedish social insurance system and so as a result do not need to have their own comprehensive health insurance.” 

When Brits categorised as “self-supporting” and living in Sweden with post-Brexit residence status apply for certificates of permanent uppehållsrätt or Swedish citizenship in the coming years, the agency continued, they would not need to have had comprehensive health insurance over this period to qualify. 

“The requirement for comprehensive health insurance is fulfilled because the British citizen is registered as living in Sweden,” the agency wrote. 

We have also contacted the Swedish Tax Agency to ask them for their understanding of the requirements, and will update this article when we receive a response. 

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