If the British people vote to leave the European Union in June, the majority of Swedes would wish to follow suit, a new poll has found. The result suggests that the British vote could have a decisive impact on the way the union is viewed across the member states, potentially triggering a wave of secessions in time.
Britain has long been seen to be an ally of Sweden’s within the EU; the two are both outside the Eurozone and support each other in fighting off the protectionism endemic to the European institutions. A recent study found an 89 percent alignment with the two countries, followed by similarly placed Denmark and the Netherlands, both on 88 percent.
But should Britain decide that the fight to bend Brussels to its way of thinking is lost, Sweden may well come to the same conclusion.
Despite the pummelling Sweden has received during Europe’s migrant crisis (the country is now home to the highest number of asylum seekers per capita in the world), support for staying within the EU is currently fairly strong in Sweden: 44 percent want to stay, against 32 percent who want to leave, with the remainder undecided.
But polling company Sifo has found that, should Britain leave, support for EU membership bottoms out. In that scenario, 36 percent of Swedes wanting to leave, against 32 percent who would want to stay.
“A “Brexit” would raise a lot of big questions: on what it will mean for the EU, but also what it means for the Swedish EU membership. Not least because Britain is a traditional ally of Sweden in the EU, but also because it may make being within the EU but outside of the euro zone a more difficult or lonely place to be,” Göran von Sydow, a political scientist and researchers at the Swedish Institute for European policy studies told SVT News.
A Swedish referendum is unlikely to be on the cards as none of Sweden’s key political figures currently favour such a vote, von Sydow acknowledged. But he added: “if the EU were to change in a more fundamental way should the British leave, well, then maybe we have to ask ourselves a more pointed question. If the EU is tantamount to being in the euro zone, then maybe we need to think about whether it’s worth it or whether to seek any alternative.”
Von Sydow’s analysis has been supported by recent research by VoteWatchEurope, who on Tuesday named the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark as Britain’s “closest allies” in the European Council, noting that they would “lose an important partner if Brexit occurred.”
The study also found that Britain is the most commonly outvoted country in the Union, and that a Brexit would leave the institutions markedly more left-wing.
Commenting on the report, chairman of VoteWatch Europe, Professor Simon Hix of the London School of Economics warned that the threat of exit contagion would likely make Germany and France in particular want to make an example of Britain by giving the country a poor deal during Brexit negotiations, in the hope of deterring other countries from following suit.
“France and Germany would be very wary of the ‘contamination’ effect on countries such as Hungary, Poland and Sweden. They would make an economic example out of the UK,” he said.