Meet the Swedish politician ready to play hardball with the UK on Brexit

Cecilia Malmstrm, the EU trade commissioner, will take a hard line on new commerce deals

During the febrile, topsy-turvy daylights after Britain voted to leave the European Union, there used to be spate of tough meanings from European captains. But few clanged more implacable than the EU trade commissioner.

A week after research results, Cecilia Malmstrm, Europes guide craft negotiator, stated that the UK could not even embark exploring a transaction slew until it had left the alliance. First you exit and then you negotiate the terms of the relationship, she told Newsnight , opening hours the prospect of the worlds sixth-largest economy being left dangling for years. When the BBC interviewer hinted this would harm organizations in Britain and on the continent, his answer was straightforward: Yes, but the vote was very clear.

Such plain speaking provoked ferocity among passing Brexiters. Conservative MP Liam Fox deplored her remarks as outlandish and stupid. While legally correct that Britain cannot sign a craft spate before it has left, by taking such a tough wrinkle against early discussions, she ambled into a political minefield.

In a few months time, Fox, since appointed Britains secretary of state for international trade ,~ ATAGEND may find himself sitting opposite Malmstrm. Nothing knows exactly how large-scale a role the 48 -year-old Swede will play in Brusselss team Brexit. Michel Barnier, the silver-haired former French foreign minister, has been given the task of extending Brexit talks by European commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Meanwhile, Belgian official Didier Seeuws is handling Brexit for his boss, European assembly chairman Donald Tusk. Another EU president, Martin Schulz of the European parliament, is unlikely to stay quiet, as MEPs have a vote on the UK divorce and any subsequent sell deal.

If the cooks are in Brussels, the lord chefs are in Berlin, Paris and other national uppercases. Anyone negotiating a future EU-UK trade deal is going to find many political leaders looking over their shoulders, says Fredrik Erixon, head of the European Centre for International Political Economy. The British bargain will not has become a ordinary swap mediation, akin to Vietnam or Canada, he emphasizes. Member territory are going to play a far more prominent capacity in defining the passions or the objectives of where these negotiations land.

Meanwhile, the Swedish commissioner has plenty more on her plateful: she wants to conclude a transaction on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, better known as TTIP, the most controversial swap deal the EU has ever negotiated. Talks will reach a moment of truth in the autumn as both sides strive for an agreement before President Barack Obama leaves office.

But disbelieves are mounting of determining whether a batch is possible. To reviewers, TTIP is a charter for deregulation that warns the NHS. EU and US officials say the reality has already become buried under superstitions and strenuously reject costs of secret negotiations.

She is very open and transparent in what we are doing, says one EU source close to the commissioner, who cites Malmstrms decision to publish EU negotiating power after the talks. We have taken opennes quite far. It is not on our interest to take it far out of range because we would be bad negotiators.

Liam
Liam Fox , now Britains secretary of state for international trade, was incensed by Malmstrms notes on Newsnight after the Brexit vote. Image: Andy Rain/ EPA

Although not exactly extraordinary, the publication of analysi is a far cry from Malmstrms early political dates. As the states members of the European parliament between 1999 -2 006, Malmstrm was a hero of the liberal left, known for taking a firm stance against sweeping data-retention proposals.

She was one of the warrior parliamentarians in the parliaments radical group, withdraws Teresa Kchler, a reporter at Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet . When she became a commissioner, everyone belief she shut up very quickly, she says , mentioning how carefully Malmstrm shunned criticising decisions taken by EU governments. Cautious maybe. But not a dry-as-dust technocrat, who floats above politics. She is known for being a radical, above all, with not a lower of conservatism in her, Kchler adds. Mats Karlsson, director of the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, describes her prospect as the policies of the respectable middle, the big-hearted tent of Swedish Labour and centrists who came of age during the golden age of the processes of globalization and Europeanisation.

Malmstrm is also a true-blue European. She was born in Gothenburg, Swedens earthier second metropolitan, residence to Volvo and Swedish manufacturing. Swedes can hear this in her accent, the Gothenburg lilt associated with banter and down-to-earth common sense. Even if she had been a legislator for 100 times, she still comes across as a local, ingenious lady that we can be proud of, says Kchler, a fellow Gothenburger.

Like so many Swedes, Malmstrm pronounces flawless English. She is fluent in French and Spanish, comfy in German and Italian. She spent part of her childhood in France and ended a PhD in Catalan and Italian regional politics. She analyse literature at the Sorbonne in Paris and is as likely to have the latest Elena Ferrante novel in her pouch as she is the TTIP text on public procurement rules.

After stints as a Gothenburg town hall official and political science lecturer, she was soon clambering the ladder of Swedish politics, elected to the European parliament in 1999, aged 31.

Like her friend and fellow liberal Nick Clegg, a career in the European parliament was a springboard into national politics. But, in Malmstrms action , not for long. After four years as Europe minister in Swedens liberal centre-right coalition, she returned to Brussels as Swedens European commissioner. She was put in charge of home affairs, a demanding portfolio dealing asylum and terrorism that sees, but mostly shatters, honours. This was a difficult job. Every year, more people were adjusting off in rickety crafts from north Africa hoping to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa. Every time, more “d die”. In October 2013, disaster impressed. At least 366 people submerge less than half a mile from Lampedusa when their overcrowded fishing boat overturned. As EU commissioner, Malmstrm urged the administration is do more. Italy set up the Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue operation, which was ascribed with saving 400 lives a period, although operations were later drastically scaled down. But she used far less successful in persuading EU countries to share responsibility for refugees, a contentious topic which has only thrives more acrimonious.

Malmstrm returned to Brussels for a second term, under Juncker, and took over EU trade policy, amid proliferating scepticism about big corporations in the aftermath of the economic crisis.

Karlsson reputes his countryman will be clearly concentrate on European interest when it comes to Brexit. I believe she will be a very hard diplomat in that we did not compose this question, this was a problem created by Britain.

Reflecting a fairly widespread thought among pro-European Swedes and beyond, he said: Britain is simply get a bad deal, a very bad deal, or a cataclysmic batch. I think that she will be very clear about what is required.

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