Amid renewed negotiations of the UK’s future relationship with the bloc, there are again concerns that EU bosses are playing hardball to prevent a domino effect, whereby the UK’s departure triggers other countries to reconsider their membership. If this domino effect were to take place, Sweden would be a strong contender for the second exit. Like the UK, Sweden has always kept the bloc at an arm’s length and stayed out of the Eurozone.
There are indicators that Eurosceptic feeling may be growing, including the rise of the populist Sweden Democrats who have gone from zero seats in 2006 to 62 seats in the 2018 election.
Opinion polls from Sifo published in April 2016 indicated that a majority of Swedish people would support leaving the EU if the UK voted to leave the following month ‒ which, of course, it did.
Swedish student Ragnar Cleveman, 25, told the BBC a few days before the UK’s referendum in 2016 that big business was the main winner in the EU and that he would back a referendum in his home country.
He said: “It’s all just companies and big corporations getting big money, all of these back-room treaties that none of the EU population is involved with.
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Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
Like Boris Johnson, many Swedes also want to leave the EU
“If the UK leaves, that’s a big thing.
“But, all in all, maybe we shouldn’t have been in it from the beginning.”
Multiple polls suggested that Swedes were the most convinced in Europe that a British departure would hurt the EU.
In one study for the US-based Pew Research centre, nine out of 10 people questioned concluded it would be “a bad thing” for the bloc.
Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier
Max Hedgren, 27, a recruitment consultant at a finance company in Stockholm, told the BBC that the UK provides stability for the bloc and Brexit threatens that.
He said friends and colleagues are seriously worried about the prospect of Brexit, and the impact it might have on the markets.
Mr Hedgren said: “To have Britain in the EU right now brings a lot of stability. And if they leave, it will have a huge impact.
“I’ve been following it a lot in the news, and I follow the stock market as well.
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“I think it’s going to affect us financially, in our private lives, in our jobs.”
This flies in the face of what some EU leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron have claimed: that the UK will suffer far more negatively from Brexit than the EU27 will.
Those interviewed particularly felt it would hurt the Swedish economy if the UK were to leave, as their economies are very linked, with more than 100 Swedish companies based in Britain.
Per Tryding, deputy chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Southern Sweden, repeatedly warned that if the UK leaves the EU, it would trigger a crisis of confidence in a member state that Swedes often “hold up as a role model”.
He said: “Swedes are a little bit in love with the UK. But now the rules of the game will be unknown.
“What are the real conditions if we do business with or invest in Britain in future?
“That security will make people shy away from investment.”
Patrik Arnesson, chief executive and co-founder of the Gothenburg-based app company Football Addicts, believed Brexit would deter start-up investment in particular.
Sweden’s start up scene uses the UK both as a neighbouring talent pool and as a key launch pad outside the Nordic states.
Mr Arnesson said: “It’s fair to say that most of the major European start-ups I talk to see the UK as the next logical step in their international expansion ‒ but if a Brexit occurred, it would likely have a deterring effect on these sorts of plans.”