As you may have heard, Iceland has dropped their bid to become part of the EU. This isn’t quite right, forgive me, I mean the Icelandic Government has decided to drop the bid.
If you find yourself asking how these can be two different things, I understand your confusion. Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson has announced this without a vote being called in Parliament or the referendum promised before the last election.
The bid to become a part of the EU was ratified by the Icelandic Parliament in 2009. Last year the Government drafted a bill to withdraw the bid. That bill contained no reference to the referendum promised during the election campaign. 72% percent of Icelandic citizens, however, wanted a referendum on continuing negotiations, and thousands of protestors gathered outside Parliament to demand that the Government honour their election promises and hold it. The bill was dropped.
Although Foreign Minister Sveinsson has previously claimed that “The government is not in any negotiations with the EU and does not intend to hold any”, it transpires this is not the case. The Icelandic Government has been in discussion with the EU for a number of weeks. They have now confirmed with the EU that they will no longer be applying for membership and no longer consider themselves a candidate country.
Although Icelandic opinion polls are almost completely divided – with 47% of citizens not wishing to enter the EU, 37% wishing to and 16% undecided – the desire for a referendum on dropping the bid was clear. The Government has taken a unilateral decision, without mandate, to reverse the 2009 decision of Parliament, without either a vote in Parliament or the promised referendum.
I hope the Government is prepared for more protests.