Vaccine row: European Union warned about contracts by Wallace
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Ever since the UK voted to leave the EU in its historic Brexit referendum, question marks over Britain’s allies and their place in the bloc have continued to bubble. Criticism has grown fiercer in recent years, particularly after the European Commission – led by its President Ursula von der Leyen – sparked chaos due to its handling of the coronavirus vaccine rollout. Ms von der Leyen herself even admitted that the Commission could have done better, as rows over which vaccines to approve, and which ones not to, halted its rollout progress.
This was evident at the start of the year, when the EU had to cast envious glances over to the UK, which at the time was leading the vaccine charge against COVID-19.
Although the vaccine rollout on the continent is now back on track, euroscepticism that crept in during the pandemic has not gone away.
And in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, which saw Leave conquer Remain, the likes of Sweden were tipped to join the UK and opt to quit the EU.
David Wemer, a Europe Fellow at Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, was among those who raised his thoughts on how this departure could be made possible.
Writing in 2016 for the Diplomatic Courier, Mr Wemer noted how the EU had “long struggled” with its objectives of “integrating states into a supranational federal entity and the uniting of the whole European continent”.
He wrote: “Expansion to the United Kingdom, the Nordic countries, and Eastern Europe signalled that the founding states favoured a pan-European project over full integration.
“As the Union continues its decade-long malaise, however, that belief could be eroding, as core states see full integration as the only way to save the institutions they worked so hard to create.
“If leaders in the core states endorse this view, it puts politicians in Sweden and elsewhere in the unenviable position of choosing between the Union and their nation’s coveted sovereignty opt-outs.
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“Brexit clearly shows the more likely outcome: Sweden’s ‘mourning of sorrow’ could quickly morph into a heart-breaking divorce, while Brussels may achieve more union but become tragically less European.”
Sweden and the UK have long been allies while EU member states, and between 2009 and 2015 voted the same way in around 89 percent of EU matters.
The two nations even successfully led a charge to secure the first ever EU budget cut back in 2013.
When Brexit was being discussed in the UK, a poll by TNS Sifo in Sweden found that 36 percent would be in favour of Stockholm quitting the EU, while 32 percent were against.
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It was also revealed that 90 percent of people also thought Brexit would be a bad thing for the bloc – and in particular Sweden.
Per Tryding, deputy chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Southern Sweden claimed a Brexit vote would make Sweden look differently at the UK, a nation it “holds up as a role model”.
He said “Swedes are a little bit in love with the UK”, but after Brexit “the rules of the game will be unknown”, adding: “What are the real conditions if we do business with or invest in Britain in future?
“That insecurity will make people shy away from investment.”
After years of wrangling, the EU’s deal with the UK was confirmed on Christmas Eve last year, but the discussions proved to be a long and drawn out affair.
But in November 2020, European Conservatives and Reformists Party (ECR) MEP Charlie Weimers, from Sweden, outlined how despite his belief a deal would be eventually be struck before the December 31 deadline, the interests of Stockholm’s relationship with the UK had to be considered.
Speaking during an online Brexit debate in the European Parliament, Mr Weimers said: “I just hope an adult will stand up in the room and point out the broader EU interests in all this.
“Sweden is among those very dependent on the UK on trade. There could be a fudge but that is the typical way of doing things for the EU but if that happens it could leave a sour taste for years to come.
“Another thing to consider is if a successful Brexit will inspire others to consider leaving the EU. Of course, nothing could be worse for the EU.”
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