Britain's EU debate closely watched by Sweden

5:59 min

The promised British referendum on whether to stay in the EU, or leave, will have implications for Sweden as well.

After the British Conservatives confounded the pollsters by winning an overall majority in parliament last week, the focus for Sweden - and other parts of Europe - has quickly shifted to the coming referendum on Britain's future in the EU.

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised an in/out referendum will take place before the end of 2017, but there are speculations it make take place already next year, to avoid clashing with the French and the German election campaigns in 2017.

"In the case of Sweden, we are an ally in terms of our economic preferences. We are also another member state that is in the EU, and not in the euro. And Britain has always fought hard for the rights of non-euro states in the EU. Sweden benefits from that as well," said Anand Menon, professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at King's College, London.

At a seminar at the Swedish Institute for International Affairs, he predicted that the process leading up to the referendum will be "bitter", with an "angry and nasty tone" towards Europe, as a way for David Cameron to placate the hard-core euro-sceptics in the Conservative party.

And this will affect Sweden as well, according to Roderick Parkes research fellow at the Swedish Institute for International Affairs. 

"The further out the UK goes, the further in Sweden is pushed. So that means it needs to tie itself more to the euro-zone, more to Germany, in a way that Poland and the Eastern member states are having to do as well. So that is going to hurt," said Roderick Parkes.

Anand Menon as well as Roderick Parkes both believe that the most likely outcome of a British referendum is that people will vote to stay in the EU, but Parkes warns against complacency, as there has been what he calls "a fundamental shift" in UK public opinion, which makes it a close call.

So what if there would be a British exit from the EU, how would that affect Sweden?

"If it exits, Sweden will be under heavy pressure to join the euro-zone, which I assume it is still not very keen on. It would probably see itself being tied to a rather protectionist group of member states in southern Europe, around France (...) and you would see a much weakened liberal group of member states in the EU around Germany and the Netherlands and so on, who lack a third partner in the UK. So on all sorts of things that Sweden traditionally pushes for, it is going to be left weaker and more exposed," said Roderick Parkes.

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