EU on brink: Brussels warned successful Brexit ‘could push Sweden to Swexit’

European Union facing internal ‘battle’ over vaccines says MEP

The EU is in the midst of a crisis over its vaccine rollout, marking yet more tension between Brussels and London after Brexit. Leaders in the EU tried to block vaccines being delivered to Northern Ireland after AstraZeneca said it would be unable to deliver the full amount of jabs promised to Europe. Brussels eventually U-turned on the move, but the vaccine delay is still causing anger in Europe. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen appeared to admit to an error of judgement during the bloc’s vaccine rollout, saying “a country can be a speedboat, the EU is more like a tanker”.

As the UK’s vaccine rollout enjoys more success, experts have also suggested that Brexit could encourage other countries to leave the EU.

Simon Hix of the London School of Economics (LSE) and Nick Sitter of the Central European University examined the case of Sweden.

In their 2018 article for the LSE website, they argued that despite the “shambolic” consequences of the UK’s departure, Brexit “will unleash a new set of institutional dynamics in Europe that could see other countries following the UK”.

They added that the next country to leave the bloc could point to a ‘British model’ in the same way many in the UK spoke of the Norwegian, Swiss and Canadian relationship with the EU.

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Professor Hix and Professor Sitter pointed to Sweden as a country where its leaders are more supportive of the EU than its voters.

They added that while polling indicates Swexit is unlikely, “support for the EU is volatile in both countries [Sweden and Hungary], and how Brexit plays out and how the EU responds internally to Brexit will influence the direction of travel for the publics and political parties in these two countries”.

Profs Hix and Sitter continued: “A scenario that would see Sweden as the next country to leave the EU would have to involve a substantial change in the cross-party political consensus on European integration.

“The most realistic basis for such a scenario would involve the emergence of a model of European integration that is more attractive for Sweden than full EU membership.

“Three factors could push Sweden in this direction.”

One of these three factors is the potential of a successful Brexit.

If the UK’s departure is to work out, it could provide “an attractive alternative to full EU membership”.

Other factors which could push Sweden in the direction of ‘Swexit’ are closer integration of eurozone countries, pushing Sweden “to the fringes” of the EU – or a demand from the right wing populist Sweden Democrats for a vote on membership.

Expert on Swedish politics – Mikael Sundstrom – told Express.co.uk that Sweden wouldn’t be able to cope outside of the EU.

He said: “The UK was a more difficult partner to the EU than Sweden can be.

“There is no question of Sweden managing economically outside the EU, we have much more to lose.

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“The UK is a big economy, a global power in many respects. But Sweden is a small export-dependent country, we simply have to align with EU countries.”

Mr Sundstrom also hinted that a successful Brexit could change minds in Sweden, but as things stand it has also only deterred Swedes from opting for ‘Swexit’.

He added: “Brexit itself and what it’s done to the country, the polarisation of the UK, it’s put many eurosceptic politicians in a pause because they don’t want anything like that.

“If Brexit is a success, however, maybe there will be a resurgence of euroscepticism.

“Although at this point I have to say it has quietened down all the euroscepticism that is out there.”

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