EU warned ‘even without Brexit bloc is fragile’ as Swexit fears gripped Brussels
Eurosceptic party calling for 'SWEXIT NOW' leading polls
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Major divisions inside the bloc have emerged in recent months, over its handling of the coronavirus crisis, as well as its controversial investment deal in principle with China. The European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen was heavily criticised after she admitted the vaccination programme inside the bloc had not gone to plan, while French President Emmanuel Macron also received reproval for his suggestion the AstraZeneca jab didn’t work among sections of older citizens. This has seen furious member states go on the offensive, and opt to source their own jabs, including the Czech Republic – now one of the world’s biggest hotspots for the virus – which has pleaded with other nations for support in getting vaccines.
The likes of Stockholm were also likely frustrated with Mr Macron, and his German counterpart Angela Merkel, who were described as playing an “active role” in driving through the EU-China deal.
Sweden has been scathing of China in the past, denouncing its track record on human rights.
With Brexit also now concluded and the UK appearing to move clear of the EU in its race to vaccinate citizens, cracks within Brussels are beginning to emerge.
Cathrine Danin, a senior analyst for Stockholm’s leading financial institution Swedbank, warned of these fractures as she outlined what would happen to the bloc, and Sweden, should the UK opt to leave the EU in 2016.
As well as telling Brussels’ lawmakers that a vote for Brexit would see calls for referendums in states such as Sweden grow, she argued that even if the Remain-vote won in the British referendum, the EU was still in a “fragile” situation.
Writing for Swedbank, Ms Danin said: “In recent years, EU collaboration has been tested frequently: by the euro-crisis in 2010, by the Greek debt crisis and the Russian military escalation in 2014-2016, and by the ongoing refugee crisis.
“Even without the UK referendum, the EU is polarised and fragile, with the refugee crisis adding pressure and the Schengen cooperation at risk of coming to an end.
“A UK exit would weaken the EU even further.”
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She explained that “vital, expensive reforms” that could be used to boost EU growth long-term “might be postponed”, and that as a result it could lead to a “weaker global sentiment, dampened investments and consumption in Europe and dampened European growth”.
This, Ms Danin noted, would “affect Swedish growth” too.
The expert concluded by admitting should the UK leave, “Sweden would lose one of its most important allies in the EU” leading to Stockholm’s influence potentially diminishing.
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She added: “The support for continued Swedish membership in the EU has declined. In the case of a Brexit, we expect an increase in demands for Sweden to also exit the EU.”
More recently, the European Commission told six of its member states, including Sweden, Germany and Hungary, to ease their coronavirus border rules.
According to The Local, an EU diplomat argued that Stockholm’s controls “are more radical than the strongest Soviet customs official you can imagine”.
A spokesperson for the Commission also said that it wanted to “underline the need for free movement restrictions to be non-discriminatory and proportionate”.
They added: “We urge member states to align their provisions, more closely with the Commission recommendations that we have jointly agreed, and review [their] rules on free movement.”
In Stockholm itself, the number of new infections has risen for the past two weeks, and its per capita rate is now the highest in Western Europe.
In January, Sweden pushed through new legislation on the pandemic, which gave lawmakers the power to shut private businesses including cafes and gyms, while fining those who hold private parties.
Last month, Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven outlined how “serious” the situation in his nation now is.
After announcing new measures for the start of March, which include all restaurants which do not serve alcohol closing at 8.30pm, Mr Lofven added: “We have a high spread of infection and it is continuing to grow.
“There is a big risk of a so-called third wave. This is not already written in our destiny.
“Whether it comes to pass will be decided by the actions of you and me.”
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