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The UK finally fulfilled its ambition to quit the EU and take back control of its sovereignty, laws, trade and waters, four-and-a-half years after it voted Leave in the Brexit referendum. With some countries within the bloc nervously looking at how the UK will fare as an independent nation, eurosceptic rhetoric has begun to grow in nations such as Spain, France and the Netherlands. As leaders of member states attempt to extinguish the anti-EU fears, those wishing to see their countries follow the UK’s decision and quit the bloc are making their voices heard.
Even before the 2016 referendum, nations such as Sweden, issued their demands to hold a similar vote should Britain decide to leave Brussels.
And Sweden’s then-Deputy Prime Minister Margot Wallstrom warned 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.”
At the time 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.
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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.
Per Tryding, deputy chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Southern Sweden claimed a Brexit vote would make the country look differently at the UK, a nation it “holds up as a role model”.
He said “Swedes are a little bit in love with the UK”, but after Brexit “the rules of the game will be unknown”, adding: “What are the real conditions if we do business with or invest in Britain in future?
“That insecurity will make people shy away from investment.”
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Other experts have also warned of the break-down in relations between the public in Sweden and the EU, after they watched one of its closest bloc allies leave.
Recent data shows that in most EU proposals, Sweden and the UK voted the same 90 percent of the time, making them crucial support for one another.
Both nations are also out of the eurozone, using their own currency – something EU critics in Sweden fear could be lost now the UK is out of the bloc.
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Goran von Sydow, a political scientist and researcher at the Swedish Institute for European Political Studies, argued that these issues could raise the prospect of Sweden quitting.
He said: “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.”
Swedish MEP Peter Lundgren also warned that Sweden could follow the UK out of the EU, telling the European Parliament last year: “I wonder as a Swedish citizen standing here today, why should we join in and pay for all of this?
“Why should Sweden borrow money and lend money to other EU countries without getting anything in return?
“We can’t cope. You have just as many problems as Sweden does and the longer you insist with this United States of Europe there will be more and more referendums going against being members of this club.”
Another of Sweden’s allies that is contemplating its own EU departure is the Netherlands.
The Netherlands’ relationship with the EU has steadily grown more difficult, particularly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The nation was accused by some inside the bloc of “going against the principles of solidarity” with states including Spain, after it refused to “give gifts” to other member states to support them through the pandemic.
In April 2020, the Netherlands joined Sweden, Austria and Denmark in refusing support for Spain and Italy – two counties that were initially at the centre of mass Covid-19 outbreaks.
Those against the move included the Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who was caught on camera telling Dutch workers the country would not give financial support to Rome or Madrid.
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