EU on brink: Sweden told to grasp ‘golden opportunity’ and curtail bloc ties for UK deal

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Brexit saw the UK unshackle itself from the EU, meaning it can now control its own laws, trade agreements and waters. With the UK able to make its own decisions, the benefits have recently appeared positive, particularly as the EU grapples with its internal vaccine rollout crisis. While the EU squabbles to find jabs, the UK has surged past rivals and is currently completing a continent-leading programme, which has seen millions of vaccines being handed out to Britons.

But back in the EU, where they have dithered on approving certain vaccines, allowing other nations to snap up the jabs, infighting has grown.

Member states, and their citizens, have rounded on the EU, as they continue to struggle to cope with the huge demand for vaccines, while also attempting to halt alarming rises in the number of coronavirus cases.

This has not been a problem for the UK, which quickly approved a number of vaccines, placing huge orders, and now dishing out jabs in the millions.

Yet, a similar pattern could have emerged in other states, if they had heeded to the advice of Mark Brolin, Jan-Erik Gustafsson, Helle Hagenau, Ulla Klötzer and Erna Bjarnadóttir.

These academics and politicians, from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland, co-authored an opinion piece detailing how Brexit was a “golden opportunity” for Nordic nations, to lessen ties with the bloc and seize its own agreements on trade and security.

They argued that the “accumulation” of power within the bloc had cast serious doubt over member states’ independence, sparking concern.

Denmark, Sweden and Finland are inside the bloc, while the other two Nordic nations retain links to the EU through the European Economic Area.

But, the authors, argued now was the time for this to be changed.

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They wrote in the Aftonbladet a year after Brexit in 2017: “So much political power has been gathered in Brussels that it is doubtful whether the member states are still independent.

“The British example illustrates the contempt that meets members who oppose closer cooperation.

“Brussels, like Washington, has developed into a Mecca for lobbyists, partly due to significantly lower transparency and partly because of the competitive advantage over smaller players.”

As a result of their close relationship to the bloc, Norway and Iceland have also seen their influence over their own laws diminish, while the other three countries abide by EU legislation.

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The authors said that all of these links “between the state administration and the interests of the EU network [are] alarmingly intimate”.

They added: “We believe that it is high time that Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Iceland curtailed their political and administrative links to a European construction that is already singing his swan song.

“A new start would serve as a much-needed shot in the arm, not least because now, with Brexit, we have a golden opportunity to develop our own custom-made (both trade and security) cooperation agreements with key partners, including the UK.”

In 2016 there was an appetite for Swexit, as a poll by TNS Sifo found that 36 percent would be in favour of quitting the EU, while 32 percent were against.

Similarly, nine in 10 people also felt that the UK leaving the EU would be a bad thing to happen to the bloc – and for Sweden.

Sweden’s then-Deputy Prime Minister Margot Wallstrom warned at the time a vote for Brexit “could break up the entire union”.

Speaking on the BBC’s This Week’s World, the Swedish Social Democratic Party member said: “That might affect other EU member states that will say, ‘Well, if they can leave, maybe we should also have referendums, and maybe we should also leave.”

And before Brexit, a number of key voices in Sweden told the bloc that calls for other member states to quit the bloc could gather momentum.

Among these were Ulrica Schenström, a Moderate Party member and former Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s state secretary, who noted how strained Sweden’s relationship with the EU could become should the UK quit in 2016.

Ms Schenström highlighted that the UK was a key voice for non-eurozone member states – such as Sweden – and that without them Stockholm could struggle to have an influence.

According to The Local, she said: “There are lots of reasons for Sweden to be worried. Our partnership with the UK, which like us is outside the euro but inside the EU, is really important for us.

“Britain has done a lot of the heavy lifting for us non-euro countries.”

She added: “If the British leave, euroscepticism in Sweden will grow. I’m worried we’ll end up in a Swexit debate.”

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