In less than a month’s time the British people will decide whether the UK should continue as a member of the European Union. It is a decision that will affect not only their own prosperity but that of their children, grandchildren and generations yet to come, but we recognise that it is their decision alone. As representatives of major Swedish businesses, which employ 100,000 people in the UK, we hope that Britain will decide to continue as our partner in the EU, helping to build our joint prosperity and a Europe which reflects our two nations’ shared values.
Swedish businesses are now prominent in British life, in retailing, telecommunications, motor manufacture, shipping, construction, consumer goods and finance, just as UK firms provide a range of valuable services and manufactured goods to the Swedish people.
In a recent survey of Swedish companies operating in the UK, conducted by Ipsos MORI for the Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the UK, three quarters said Brexit would be bad for business and four in ten say it would be very bad. More than half said Brexit would have a negative impact on investment in the UK.
Of course, we will continue to trade with Britain, which is our fourth largest export market, even if the UK decides to leave the EU. But that trade will be more difficult and more expensive if Britain steps out of the single market. It may take many years for the UK to negotiate new trade deals with the EU, during which time prices could increase, investment may slow and jobs could be lost. And if it is necessary to organise visas, work permits or residence permits for Swedish nationals working in the UK, the business of doing business here may just become too difficult.
Swedish financial institutions – private equity and banks - are already confirming that transactions have ground to a halt because of the uncertainty created by the prospect of Brexit.
If Britain opts to leave, it will lose its ability to shape the European Union and the way it works. And Sweden would lose a strong partner within the EU which, over the past two decades since we joined the Union, has worked with us to ensure that Europe properly reflects the needs and aspirations of its citizens.
In an increasingly dangerous world, in which both our nations face the challenge of keeping our people safe, ensuring continued energy supplies and building a cleaner environment, we believe we can meet these challenges better together than separately. A prosperous and vibrant Britain within the EU will have a more influential voice in the World than a Britain with a smaller and slower growing economy trying to act alone.
It is not for us to tell the British people how to vote on June 23rd, but we believe that Brexit would damage trade between our two countries, lead to reduced investment in the UK and hence reduce employment and living standards.
On behalf of our members who have expressed concerns about a potential Brexit, we sincerely hope that the UK will remain in the European Union where it is an important ally and friend to Sweden.
The Executive Committee of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce to the UK
Beatrice Engström-Bondy, Chair of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce to the UK
Annika Goodwille, Member of the Council of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce
Ulla Nilsson, Director of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce
Lars Olsson, Vice-Chair of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce
Björn Savén, Vice-Chair of the Council of the Chamber of Commerce
Håkan Winberg, Member of the Council of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce.