19:36 GMT17 January 2021
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    UK General Election 2017 (130)
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    While the latest General Election in the UK ended in a disaster for Prime Minister Theresa May and resulted in a hung parliament, Sweden, Britain's closest ally in Europe, has special reasons for joy.

    Non-euro EU member Sweden has long been one of Britain's closest partners in the EU, voting the same way as the UK on nine out of ten issues. To say that the UK's withdrawal from the EU disappointed Swedes would be a gross understatement. However, Theresa May's unexpected setback in the polls may have refueled Swedes' dwindling optimism.

    Present-day Sweden, which is run by a coalition government comprised of the Social Democrats and the Greens, shares more ideological ground with Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party that Theresa May's Conservatives and is poised to boost bilateral cooperation. Sweden is also arguably the EU country keenest on striking a mutually beneficial Brexit deal, which might be facilitated by the unexpected election results.

    Since Theresa May based her election campaign on the idea of a "hard Brexit," the election results may be interpreted as Brits' displeasure with her plans. Now, May could be forced to drive through a "softer" Brexit. Her allies, the Northern Irish DUP, made it clear that it wanted a smoother Brexit, as the Northern Irish would suffer very hard from a closed border with the neighboring Republic of Ireland. For Sweden, a softer Brexit would also mean good news, the Swedish daily Sydsvenskan wrote.

    Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström voiced her cautious optimism.

    "It remains to be seen how the election results will affect the Brexit negotiations. It is important that the exit happen in as orderly a fashion as possible. Britain is an important partner for Sweden and we want a close relationship with Britain even after the country leaves the EU," Margot Wallström said.

    Swedish EU Minister Ann Linde argued that Theresa May's weakened position in British parliament is bound to affect the Brexit negotiations. Nevertheless, she chose not to view the situation as a win for the EU and a loss for the UK.

    "Sweden's position is very clear in that we need a good deal with the UK, because it is such an important trade partner. So I'd rather not see it as 'one wins, the other loses,'" Ann Linde told Swedish Radio, stressing Sweden's dependence on the UK.

    Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson, who previously stressed the need for Brexit negotiations to start as soon as possible, told Swedish Radio that she believed they would now be prolonged.

    However, pessimist notes were also heard. Andreas Hatzigeorgiou, chief economist at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, argued that a hung parliament would mean more uncertainty in the short term, which he said was "nothing Sweden needed."

    "We are dependent on smooth negotiations and clear negotiation positions about Britain's divorce from the EU," Andreas Hatzigeorgiou told the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.

    Former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt went so far as to call the UK election results "messy," blaming the "lack of true leadership."

    An illustration of Sweden's special relation with the UK might be the record number of Britons applying for Swedish citizenship since last year's Brexit vote. In 2016, 1,521 Brits switched to Sweden, followed by 959 in 2017.

    Topic:
    UK General Election 2017 (130)

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    Tags:
    Brexit, Ann Linde, Margot Wallström, Carl Bildt, Theresa May, Scandinavia, Sweden, United Kingdom
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