If the UK leaves the EU after its referendum in June, a majority of Swedes would wish their country to follow suit, according to a new opinion poll.
At the moment, 44% of the Swedish voters would like to remain in the bloc, with 32% wanting out.
But should Britain leave the EU after its in/out referendum on 23 June, then these figures would be turned around.
According to a poll published by Sifo on Wednesday (20 April), 36% of the Swedes would in that scenario want to follow the Brits while 32% would want to keep the EU membership.
“If there’s going to be a ‘Brexit’, then this would raise so many questions related to the impact on the EU and the Swedish membership,” said Göran von Sydow, a political scientist and researcher at the Swedish Institute for European Political Studies (SIEPS).
Von Sydow added that the UK is seen as a traditional ally of Sweden in the EU, as both countries are non-eurozone members. A potential Brexit would make an EU membership more difficult and more “lonely” for a non-eurozone countries like Sweden.
An analysis by VoteWatchEurope on Tuesday supported the researcher’s view, saying that the biggest individual losers if Britain votes to leave the would be the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, who are the UK’s “closest allies” in the Council. The countries would “lose an important partner if Brexit occurred.”
Though most of the main parties of the Swedish parliament are pro-EU, making it unlikely that an EU membership referendum would be proposed, the situation could change if Brexit also fundamentally changed the EU itself.
“If the EU is tantamount to being in the eurozone, then maybe we need to consider whether it’s worth remaining or whether we need to seek an alternative,” the Swedish researcher said.
The domino effect
If leaving the EU, however, proves to be a bad decision for the UK, this could deter countries such as Sweden and Denmark from holding similar membership referendums.
Therefore, the EU may be keen to give Britain a bad deal in case of Brexit to prevent a ‘domino effect,’ where more countries, most likely the Nordic countries would reconsider their EU membership.
Sweden’s support for EU has dropped since the autumn, mainly due to the EU’s handling of the refugee crisis which saw 163,000 people apply for asylum in the Scandinavian country in 2015.
Meanwhile in neighbouring Denmark, a country which has always had a much more Eurosceptic population than in Sweden, the reform deal which British Prime Minister David Cameron clinched with the EU in February – which saw curbs to benefits for EU migrants – muted criticism of the EU from even the loudest voices.
A prominent member of far-right Eurosceptic Danish People’s Party Morten Messerschmidt, who is also an MEP of the European Reformists and Conservatives (ECR) group, said after the Brussels summit that leaving the EU would no longer be relevant for his country.
But in Denmark, where the Danish People’s Party is the second-biggest in the parliament, the party’s spokesperson for EU affairs Kenneth Kristensen Berth said Brexit would automatically force Denmark to reconsider its own membership.
Not least since Denmark mainly joined the EU together with the UK back in 1973 because Britain was its biggest export market at the time.
“I don’t think we should just continue and say ‘well, okay so the Brits have left us, we will continue as members without giving that more thought.’ I don’t think we should do so. I think we should really consider, what kind of development the EU would begin in case Great Britain leaves,” Kristensen Berth told the newspaper Politiken.
During his campaign for re-election in 2015, British Prime Minister David Cameron promised to renegotiate the UK's relations with the European Union and organise a referendum to decide whether or not Britain should remain in the 28-member bloc.
The British PM said he will campaign for Britain to remain in the EU after a two-day summit in Brussels where he obtained concessions from the 27 other EU leaders to give Britain “special status” in the EU.
But EU leaders had their red lines, and ruled out changing fundamental EU principles, such as the free movement of workers, and a ban on discriminating between workers from different EU states.
The decision on whether to stay or go could have far-reaching consequences for trade, investment and Great Britain's position on the international scene.
The campaign will be bitterly contested in a country with a long tradition of euroscepticism and a hostile right-wing press, with opinion polls showing Britons are almost evenly divided.
- 23 June: UK referendum on EU membership.
- 27-28 June: EU summit.
- July-December 2017: UK holds rotating EU Council Presidency.
- SVT: The Swedish support for the EU decreasing - if the UK leaves [In Swedish]
- Svenska Dagbladet: Support for EU membership decreasing [In Swedish]
- Politiken: Danish People's Party spokesperson: Brexit could lead to Danish EU exit [In Danish]