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EUROPEAN UNION

More Swedes think EU is good for Sweden: Poll

Swedes are significantly more positive about the EU than the average citizen of the union, with the Swedish belief that the EU is good for their country almost ten percent higher than agreement with that sentiment across the union in general, according to a new study.

More Swedes think EU is good for Sweden: Poll
The European Parliament in Strasbourg. Photo: Jean-Francois Badias/AP

The latest edition of the European Parliament’s Parlemeter poll showed that only 53 percent of EU citizens polled think the EU is a good thing for their country, a decrease of two percent from the previous edition of the study in 2015.

In Sweden, things are different however: in this year’s study, 64 percent of Swedes said that the EU is good for Sweden, a five percent increase since 2015.

62 percent of Swedes said that their country had benefited from being a member of the EU meanwhile, a four percent increase since 2015. The EU average for the same question is 60 percent, unchanged from the previous year.

The most common reason why Swedes think their country benefits from the EU is “membership improves co-operation between Sweden and the other countries of the EU” (53 percent), which on average only 29 percent of respondents across the 28 EU nations agreed with in regards to their country.

It isn’t all positive however: 55 percent of Swedish respondents said that things are going in the wrong direction in the EU – one percent higher than the EU average of 54 percent.

The 2016 Parlemeter was carried out between September 24th and October 3rd, several months after the United Kingdom’s June 23rd referendum vote to leave the EU.

In July, a survey carried out by pollsters Novus for Swedish TV4 suggested that the Brexit vote had strengthened Swedish positivity on the EU, with 63 percent of Swedes saying they would vote to remain in the union if a referendum was held, up from 58 percent saying they would do so in a previous Novus study conducted before the British vote.

A Sweden-based political scientist specializing in EU politics told The Local at the time that Britain’s vote to leave the EU had urged Swedes to think in more detail about Europe.

“The average Swedish person doesn’t think or care much about the EU, but Brexit brings it to the fore. The UK referendum made a complicated issue real, and people in Sweden are suddenly forced to think about what the EU is rather than just having a vague opinion on it,” Ian Manners noted.

For members

BREXIT

What Brits in Sweden need to know if they move back to the UK post-Brexit

Most people accept that moving to Sweden is tricky and involves a lot of paperwork, but for Brits deciding to go back to the UK it's easy, right? After all, you're just going home? Wrong.

What Brits in Sweden need to know if they move back to the UK post-Brexit

Moving countries is a time-consuming process – but if you’re British and living in Sweden you might think that moving back to the UK would be simpler? Well, there won’t be a language barrier and as a UK citizen you won’t need any immigration paperwork (although if you’re bringing a Swedish partner you with then that gets complicated) – but you will still face administrative hurdles around pensions, healthcare, driving and taxes. 

Some of these issues existed before Brexit, while others are as a direct result of the UK leaving the EU. Here are the most common questions from Brits thinking of moving back to the UK.

Do I still qualify for NHS treatment?

You are entitled to NHS treatment if you are “ordinarily resident” in the UK – there is no minimum time limit so as soon as you are back in the UK on a permanent basis, you can use the NHS. You will need to register for a GP in your local area in order to access non-emergency treatment, and to get an NHS number if you do not already have one.

You may need to provide proof of a UK address in order to use NHS services – although in reality UK citizens are rarely asked for this, apart from when registering with a GP. 

If you have been an S1 holder while living in the EU you should cancel that, just so there is no confusion over where you are getting your healthcare.

If you go back to Sweden for a visit, remember that you are now a tourist and will need a GHIC card to get European healthcare, while travel insurance is also advised in case of accident or illness while visiting an EU country. 

Can I drive on my EU licence in UK?

If you have been living in the EU you may have had to change your UK licence for a French or Spanish one for example.

Once you’re back living in the UK you can continue to drive on you EU licence until the age 70 or if you move to the UK when you are 67 or over you can drive for three years. After this time you’ll need to change your licence.

If your licence or photocard has an expiry date – once it’s time to renew, you should swap it for a UK licence. You’ll need a valid photocard licence to drive in the UK.

You can find details on the swap process for UK licences here, and if you’re in Northern Ireland here

UK residents with an EU licence can if they want exchange their licence for a UK one, if they wish to do so, without the need for a re-test.

READ ALSO: How to change your driving licence to a Swedish one

Can I bring my Swedish partner with me?

If you’re returning alone you won’t need to do any kind of immigration paperwork, your UK passport is enough. However if you are bringing a partner with you who is not a UK citizen, it becomes complicated.

After the end of the Brexit transition process there was an “amnesty” period in which Brits with EU partners could move back to the UK under the old immigration rules. This is now ended and EU partners face the same immigration process as all other foreign spouses.

Essentially either your partner will need to have already secured a relatively high-paying job in the UK, or you will need to prove that you have a large amount of money to support them. They will need to go through the process of getting a UK visa (which is expensive – between £1,000 and £1,500 just for the visa fee) and there is no guarantee that their application will be successful simply because they are married/in a civil partnership with a Brit. They will also need to take an English-language exam. 

Here are full details.

What about my pension contributions from the EU? 

If you have been working in Sweden, you will probably have been contributing to the Swedish pension system. Pre-Brexit, UK and EU pension contributions could be blended into a single pension – but this is no longer the case.

Brits still living in the EU who are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement are theoretically covered by blended pensions if they had made pension contributions in the UK before moving to the EU, but the same does not apply if you move back to the UK. 

The good news is that EU countries still practise this – so if for example you have paid into pensions in France, Germany and Italy, your contributions will be totted up and paid out as a single pension – you apply in the last country you worked in. Bear in mind, however, that different countries have different pension ages. 

The country that is paying your pension may require you to have an EU bank account to pay into – and you should check with the country paying your pension whether there are any other conditions to observe.

When it comes to a pension from the UK, it depends on how long you worked there – the basic rule is that you need 10 years of National Insurance contributions in order to get a state pension.

However the UK government states that periods of work done in the EU or EEA “may” count towards your qualifying period. That said, even if they do, they don’t count towards the total pension amount – so for example if you worked for seven years in the UK and the remaining 35 years of your career in the EU, you can qualify for a UK state pension, but it will only be based on the seven years of work in the UK (in other words, the payment per month will be tiny).

Here are further details on UK pension entitlement.

Do I need to hand back my residency card, health card etc before I leave the EU? 

Most countries require that you hand back residency cards before you leave, but in truth this is rarely strictly enforced. Check with the Swedish Migration Agency about what you should do with your residence permit (be it an uppehållstillstånd or a card proving your uppehållsstatus), as they may want you to post it back. 

If you do end up keeping residency or healthcare cards – don’t use them on trips back to the EU. Tempting as it might be to avoid border queues or healthcare fees, you will create a confusing official record if you are claiming to be resident of two countries at once.

If you have taken Swedish citizenship, that is a different matter and of course you are entitled to keep and use your Swedish passport when visiting the EU.

READ ALSO: What do dual-nationals need to know about post-Brexit border controls

Do I still have to pay Swedish taxes? 

It’s highly likely that you were paying taxes in the country you lived in. Generally, tax declarations concern the previous year, so you will have to do at least one tax declaration and payment after moving back to the UK.

In Sweden, you usually get your tax declaration at the beginning of March, with the deadline for declaring in May, and it concerns the previous calendar year. So if for example you move back to the UK in April 2023, you will have to complete a tax declaration in May 2024, covering the time you spent in Sweden in 2023.

READ ALSO: Explained: How does income tax work in Sweden?

If you still own property in Sweden you will pay property taxes there, and if you have any earnings in your former home you will likely still have to pay taxes there – check with the Tax Agency. 

When you left the UK, you will likely have informed HMRC that you were leaving the country, so you will now have to tell them that you’re back. Whether you have to fill out a UK self-assessment form depends on whether you are a salaried employee or self-employed/retired. 

Can I keep my Swedish bank account? Do I need a new UK account? 

This one depends on the policy of your bank, but most banks in Sweden require you to have a Swedish address.

It’s possible that your UK bank may have closed your account while you were living outside the UK, in which case you will need to open a new one.

A practical option while you are moving and still have interests in both countries is to open an internet bank account with a company like Wise or Revolut – these offer accounts in pounds, euros, and a range of other currencies including the Swedish krona and give you a European IBAN and a UK sort code, so you can use it in both countries.

Will my EU qualifications be recognised?

If you were studying or gaining professional qualifications while living in the EU, don’t assume that these will be recognised in the UK. Brexit ended the mutual recognition of qualifications – check with the professional or academic body that issued them whether these are recognised in the UK, you may need to acquire a certificate of recognition.

It’s a good idea to check this point before you start job-hunting in the UK. 

Be prepared for hassles

The advantage of moving back to the UK is that you’re not starting from scratch and at least you know how things like council tax, electricity billing and healthcare work.

However, don’t assume that it will all be plain sailing – if you don’t have a recent UK address, you might be an anomaly in many companies’ systems and you’re likely to be forced to have several long and annoying conversations with call centres while you explain that while you are a UK citizen, you have not recently been living in the UK.

There are likely to be other niggles too – many UK car insurance companies won’t recognise a no-claims bonus built up abroad, so you’ll be back to paying full premiums on your car insurance, while banks might request extra money laundering checks due to your foreign associations.

A lot of people in the UK also seem to be confused about the difference between citizenship and residency, so be prepared to have the following conversation a lot: “I’ve recently been living in Sweden. No, I’m not Swedish, I’m British, I was just living in Sweden. Yes, I am a UK citizen.”

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