Will Iceland really join the European Union? I have come to Reykjavik in search of answers. In one sense, it’s the right time to be here: the skies are white for almost 24 hours a day at this time of year, appearing to throw light on everything. But in another sense this promises to be a frustrating trip - Iceland itself doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be in the EU or not.
The opinion polls are not good. After a long period in which a solid majority of about 60 per cent of Icelanders supported EU membership, things have turned upside down in recent months. Support for EU entry was estimated to be as low as 28 per cent in one recent survey, whilst opposition now runs at about 60 per cent. If Iceland is serious about joining the EU, it will have to hold a referendum, so these numbers matter. Right now, however, we are a long way from a referendum – at least two years, and perhaps longer. Much can change.
Enthusiasm for the EU was high when Iceland’s banking system and currency collapsed in 2008, prompting the introduction of a drastic austerity programme conducted under the beady eye of the International Monetary Fund. But Iceland’s dispute with the UK and the Netherlands over how to repay British and Dutch savers who lost their money in Icesave, the failed online Icelandic bank, has changed public opinion. Read more