Iceland government considers new EU membership bid

Iceland’s new coalition government plans to put the question of joining the EU back on the political agenda by offering parliament a vote on it.

MPs will vote on whether to hold a referendum on EU membership, the three parties in the coalition said.

Iceland began EU accession talks in 2010, while the country was still reeling from the 2008 financial crash.

The talks were later shelved, however, amid much Euroscepticism in the Arctic island nation of 328,000.

The UK’s Brexit vote has fuelled British interest in alternative models for trade with the EU, like Iceland’s.

It is not yet clear when Icelandic MPs will reactivate the EU membership debate through a parliamentary vote.

The centre-right government is led by Bjarni Benediktsson, who heads the conservative Independence Party. He was previously finance minister.

Close EU ties

The prime minister’s coalition partners are Restoration and centrist Bright Future, whose leader Ottarr Proppe is a former punk rocker.

Tuesday’s coalition deal followed weeks of political wrangling after the 29 October general election.

Iceland is already deeply integrated with the EU – it is a member of the Schengen passport-free zone and is in the single market, though its agriculture and fisheries are excluded.

Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein are in both the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA).

Iceland’s status means it could quickly fulfil the requirements of EU membership – unlike the Balkan candidates and Turkey.

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