EU divided: Sweden and Denmark ‘hid behind UK’ as nations united over bloc concerns

EU: Expert discusses possible exit of Sweden and Italy

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Given that the UK was a major player in the EU before leaving in 2020, Brexit is sure to change the dynamic of the bloc. This will be felt in Sweden and Denmark in particular, given the Scandinavian countries’ close alignment with Britain when it come to European issues. When the EU was negotiating its coronavirus recovery fund, professor of political science Marlene Wind said the two countries had united having previously relied on the UK. She said: “Until now we have been hiding behind the Brits and broadly people have seen Denmark as a nice, compliant country to EU law, but now the truth comes out.”

Social Democratic MEP Christel Schaldemose told DR in January last year, as the UK officially left the EU, that Brexit is “sad” for the country.

She said: “It will be sad. We are losing a very, very central ally in a large number of areas, whom we have been able to shelter behind a little.

“For example, with regard to making the EU more efficient and a little less federal than some of the other countries would like. That is something we’ll really notice.”

Another MEP, Morten Lokkegaard of the centre-right Liberals, said the UK had been a “political big brother” to Denmark in the EU.

He said: “We are losing a political big brother in the European cooperation. Throughout the years, we’ve been able to place ourselves in the Brits’ slipstream and let them do the hard work in key areas like free trade and the Single Market.

“We’re losing that bulldozer now, and politically, that will be a big problem for us.”

Sweden had a similar relationship with the UK, as political scientist Mikael Sundstrom told earlier this year.

He said that the Swedes will “miss” the UK and that Brexit had left the country in an “unresolvable position” in trying to find a new ally.

Mr Sundstrom said: “Clearly Sweden is missing the UK more than most, because the UK and Sweden were very well aligned on a number of issues.

“Now Sweden no longer has that really powerful ally, so Sweden is missing out more than most on British support.

“They shared similar views on exports, trade and foreign policy for example. The UK and Sweden regularly teamed up on other issues.”

Despite this, Mr Sundstrom doesn’t think a ‘Swexit’ would be possible for Sweden, as the country’s economy is smaller than the UK’s.

He added: “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.

“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.”

The UK often backed up Scandinavian countries in debates over economic policy in the EU.

Tony Barber wrote for the World Economic Forum in 2016 that non-eurozone EU member states such as Sweden and Denmark were concerned about the balance of power in the bloc without the UK.

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He said: “The non-euro nations are worried that, without the UK, the EU balance of power will swing strongly in favour of eurozone governments.

“That could make it more difficult for the interests of those outside the single currency to gain a proper hearing.

“To the extent that France, Germany, Italy and others pursue initiatives aimed at closer economic, financial and fiscal integration of the eurozone, the impression could arise that the non-euro countries are stuck in a sort of EU second tier or outer circle.”

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