Iceland–United Kingdom relations

Icelandic–British relations


United Kingdom

Icelandic–British relations are foreign relations between Iceland and the United Kingdom.

Before independence, Iceland had been an independent part of the Kingdom of Denmark since 1918. Fearing an Axis move against Iceland following the Nazi Occupation of Denmark, British forces landed on Iceland in 1940. In June 17 1944, 200 days after the 25 year Danish–Icelandic Act of Union had expired and following a referendum Iceland was declared an independent republic, recognised by London as well as the King of Denmark.

From Iceland’s independence until the mid-1970s, bilateral relations were difficult due to the 'Cod Wars' (a series of disputes over fishing rights in the 1950s and 1970s). Since then relations are much better, mainly because both countries have common interests including free trade, defence, environmental protection and international peace. Both countries are members of NATO and the European Economic Area.

Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom paid a state visit to Iceland in June 1990.[1] In October 2015 British Prime Minister David Cameron became the first British Premier to officially visit Iceland (to attend the Northern Future Forum) since it became a republic in 1944. The last British Prime Minister to visit the territory was Winston Churchill, in August 1941.[2]

The United Kingdom has an embassy in Reykjavík. Iceland has an embassy in London and 17 honorary consulates in: Aberdeen, Birmingham, Cardiff, Dover, East Riding of Yorkshire, Edinburgh, Fleetwood, Glasgow, Grimsby, Guernsey, Jersey (in the Channel Islands), Lerwick, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northern Ireland, and York.

Disputes past and present

Second World War

During the Second World War in 1940 following the fall of Denmark the United Kingdom launched the Invasion of Iceland and occupied Icelandic territory until 1941 when defence responsibility was transferred to the United States of America.

Cod Wars

The Cod Wars were a series of confrontations in the 1950s and 1970s between the United Kingdom and Iceland regarding fishing rights in the North Atlantic. In February 1976 Iceland severed diplomatic ties with Britain, an unprecedented action between two NATO members, which were restored in the spring of that year.[3][4]


Prime Minister of Iceland Geir Haarde, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street, in April 2008
Main article: Rockall

Rockall was claimed by a number of nations, including Iceland and the United Kingdom, as well as by the Republic of Ireland and Denmark (on behalf of the Faroe Islands). The United Kingdom and Ireland reached a power sharing agreement over Rockall, but as yet no other agreements exist with Iceland or Denmark.

Icesave dispute

Main article: Icesave dispute

The Icesave dispute was a dispute between Iceland and the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands over frozen assets held by collapsed Icelandic banks which operated in the above countries, causing much political tension.

Mackerel row

In recent years, mackerel migration and spawning has taken place into both Faroese and Icelandic waters and since then the quota Iceland has allocated to itself has risen to a 130,000-ton quoata. This has led to tensions between the Icelandic government and those of the United Kingdom, Norway and Ireland. The EU and Norway awarded themselves 90% of the TAC in 2011, despite Icelandic and Faroese objections. Scientific investigations concluded that the TAC of mackerel should be 646,000 tons, of which the EU and Norway awarded themselves 583,882 tons, leaving only 62,118 tons for the Faroe Islands and Iceland. This debate has led to speculation of a future cod war.[5]

Diplomatic missions

The Embassy of Iceland in London is located on Hans Street in Kensington. The British Embassy in Reykjavík is located on Laufásvegur street in the Miðborg district.

See also


  1. "OUTWARD STATE VISITS MADE BY THE QUEEN SINCE 1952". Official web site of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 2008-11-29.
  2. Hafstad, Vala (12 October 2015). "Cameron Is Coming". Iceland Review. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  3. Jóhannesson, Guðni Thorlacius (2013). The history of Iceland. Santa Barbara, Calif: Greenwood. p. 130. ISBN 9780313376207.
  4. Cook, Bernard A. (2014). Europe Since 1945: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 207.
  5. "EU mad over mackerel". Global Post. Retrieved 2011-09-30.
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