During its meeting earlier today the Government of Iceland discussed the results of the British referendum on European Union membership and UK's decision to leave the EU.
The United Kingdom is one of Iceland's most important trade partners and relations are deeply rooted in the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA). The two countries also enjoy strong cooperation in security and defence, justice and home affairs, transport and cultural affairs, to name a few areas. The Government of Iceland therefore states that it is of utmost importance to guarantee continued strong and stable cooperation between the two countries.
In light of this the Government decided that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, would discuss the effects of UK's decision at the upcoming EFTA Ministerial meeting in Bern, Switzerland, which starts Sunday 26 June. During the EFTA Ministerial meeting, Iceland will emphasise the importance that the four EFTA countries (Iceland, Switzerland, Norway and Liechtenstein) maintain the same level of economic and trade arrangements with the UK upon its withdrawal from the EU. In addition, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs will explore alternative arrangements for Iceland, e.g. the possibility of a deep and comprehensive bilateral economic and trade agreement with the UK. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs will also explore how Iceland's interests will be best secured in the withdrawal negotiations between the UK and the European Union that will take place on the basis of the Treaty on European Union.
The Government has formed an inter-ministry working group comprising the Permanent Secretaries of State at the Prime Minister's Office, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Industries and Innovation and Ministry of Welfare, with the aim of coordinating policy tasks. The working group will cooperate with other Ministries and various stakeholders. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs will also assign an independent research organisation to evaluate the economic effects of the possible options for economic and trade arrangements between Iceland and the UK.
Foreign Minister Alfredsdóttir states: „It is clear that the work towards UK leaving the EU has just started. I wish to underline that while that work is ongoing, there will not be any changes to our economic and trade relations, movement of persons or any other cooperation arrangements. Relations between Iceland and the UK have always been mutually beneficial and will continue to be so. I am confident that the work we have ahead of us will produce good results.”