Calls for Sweden to leave the European Union grew on Monday as the leader of the country’s second-largest party renewed his criticisms of Brussels while calling on Stockholm to take steps so it is prepared to leave the bloc.
The Sweden Democrats – an informal part of the government – have long been opposed to the country’s membership of the European Union.
But with polls suggesting that the majority of Swedes want to stay in the bloc, the party has claimed it will follow the will of the people and not push for ‘Swexit’.
Despite this, Jimmie Akesson, leader of the SD party, has now argued that Sweden should not let any further power be transferred from national politicians and the country’s parliament to lawmakers in Brussels without a referendum.
In an article written by Akesson and Charlie Weimers, a Swedish MEP, the pair argued that the Swedish government should ‘take measures and steps so that our country is prepared to leave the EU.’
Jimmie Akesson (pictured), leader of the Sweden Democrats party, has argued that Sweden should not let any further power be transferred from national politicians and the country’s parliament to lawmakers in Brussels without a referendum
The measures they are proposing include a change to the constitution to enable readiness for a withdrawal. Akesson and Weimers argue that in doing so, they would be in a better negotiating position within the bloc.
‘We Sweden Democrats now want to investigate how our country can prevent more transfer of power to the EU, maximize our influence and achieve better negotiation results,’ the pair say in their article, published by Svenska Dagbladet.
‘This is currently a more urgent issue than the discussion about membership.’
One constitutional change, they say, would be the introduction of a so-called ‘referendum lock’, following the British model.
This would mean that the Swedish people who have a vote on whether or not to approve any power being transferred from Sweden to Brussels.
Such a measure was also introduced by Britain in 2011 by then-Prime Minister David Cameron, who eventually went on to call the ‘Brexit’ referendum in 2015, with the vote taking place in 2016 and ultimately leading to Britain’s exit from the EU.
In their article, Akesson and Weimers write: ‘Only the knowledge that every decision on the transfer of power must be submitted to the citizens would slow down the worst abuses from Brussels.’
The Sweden Democrats also argue that the country should also prepare to leave the union completely, primarily to give the country a better foothold in negotiations, and not necessarily – they claim – the leave the EU.
‘In order for preparedness to be credible, it is necessary that we remove the writings in the constitution that state that Sweden is a member of the EU,’ the pair write.
‘In addition, we should train a cadre of civil servants with the expertise to negotiate trade agreements and other things that we have delegated to the EU and study how Brexit could have been implemented better. The better preparedness we have to leave, the more we will gain in future negotiations.’
The party also wants to set up an investigation into how to reduce any negative effects caused by Sweden’s membership of the bloc.
Pictured: The Swedish and EU flags fly in front of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm. The Sweden Democrats – an informal part of the government – have long been opposed to the country’s membership of the EU. But with polls suggesting that the majority of Swedes want to stay in the bloc, the party has said it will follow the will of the people and not push for ‘Swexit’
Akesson’s position has been criticised by some in the ruling government in Sweden.
According to a source inside the Moderate party (M) – which heads up the country’s leading right-wing bloc – some Moderates feel Akesson’s actions are is weakening the position Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.
Sweden currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, making Kristersson one of the key faces of the EU during this time.
The source told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that the SD leader’s actions are viewed as an embarrassment to the coalition, and have led to internal discussions inside the Moderate party.
Some in the party point out that only other European figure openly playing with leaving the European Union currently is Hungary’s autocratic leader Victor Orban, thus putting Akesson in undesirable company, the source said.
According to the newspaper, while there are voices critical of the EU within the Moderate party, the talk of Swexit is not on the table.
The source said: ‘If the SD continues to make the government’s EU work more difficult, then it will have consequences for the Tidö cooperation (between the four parties forming the ruling coalition), there will be more friction.’
Akesson’s comments are being seen by some as an attempt to capture voices critical of the EU, and thus increase support for his right-wing party, the source noted.
‘I think that SD is lagging behind too much, they have gone a step too far. To say that Sweden should prepare for a “Swexit” is very far-fetched,’ the source told the newspaper. ‘I think there are few who think it is time to bring up this discussion.’
They added: ‘Jimmie Akesson’s play was a hint that the previous stance (of wanting to leave the EU) has not been completely abandoned. If this continues, it could become a problem for the collaboration.’
Pictured: Charlie Weimers, a Swedish MEP, who joined Akesson in calling for Stockholm to make it more difficult to give more power to Brussels
Earlier this month, Akesson said the EU’s expanding power meant ‘German, Polish or French politicians, in practice decide what car you can buy, how expensive petrol should be and which tree you can cut down on your own property’.
The leader of the Sweden Democrats said the country should seek more exemptions from EU laws as part of a reset in relations with the 27-member group.
Akesson, whose anti-immigration party has a big influence over Sweden’s right-of-centre government, then stopped short of directly calling for ‘Swexit’ – a vote on whether to leave the European Union as British voters did in 2016.
But he said the EU was heading in the wrong direction.
‘Today, there are good reasons to seriously re-evaluate our membership in the union,’ Akesson wrote in Aftonbladet at the time.
‘Our general elections in Sweden will soon cease to have any significance in Sweden’s development. Naturally, we can’t allow that to happen.’
Akesson warned the EU might impose more liberal immigration policies on Sweden, which has taken an increasingly tough line in recent years on asylum applications.
Swedes are among the most positive in Europe regarding EU membership, with 68 per cent in support, according to a survey by Gothenburg University in March.
The country applied last year to join the NATO military alliance, which includes most EU members – including Finland which officially joined on April 4.
Sweden’s own bid has so far been blocked by objections from Turkey and Hungary.
The Sweden Democrats’ EU-sceptic stance was long seen as an obstacle to their acceptance into the political mainstream and the party dropped that demand in 2018 to win over more voters.
According to a source inside the Moderate party (M) – which heads up the country’s leading right-wing bloc – some Moderates feel Akesson’s position on the European Union is weakening the position of Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (pictured, May 3)
In last year’s general election, it got 20.5 per cent of the vote.
Its support was crucial in enabling the minority Moderate, Christian Democrat and Liberal coalition to take power.
As part of the deal, the Sweden Democrats have exercised considerable influence on policy, pushing for tougher immigration rules and watered-down ambitions on climate change.
The party has threatened to bring down the coalition if it doesn’t cut taxes on fuels and stand up to the EU over asylum quotas.
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