EU’s mask slips as bloc accused of using crises to push for integration ‘Look at Iceland!’

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As pro-Brexit campaigners decried the “Project Fear” tactics deployed in the UK’s referendum debate, Iceland is said to have witnessed something more akin to “Project Apocalypse” in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash. Where Britons are warned of the potentially cataclysmic implications of Brexit, Icelanders say they were sold a tale of perma-doom that would plague the island until it became a member of the bloc. Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, Iceland’s former Prime Minister, told The Telegraph the membership debate was dominated by fears over Iceland’s very survival.

He said: “Without membership, we were doomed.

“There was never any discussion about the ideas and nature of the European Union or whether that was something Icelanders wanted to be part of.

“The application was simply presented as an economic necessity with claims that as soon as we applied, we would improve our credibility internationally and the euro would be the solution to all our problems.”

In an exclusive interview with, historian and head of an Icelandic free-market think tank Hjörtur J. Guðmundsson echoed Mr Gunnlaugsson’s claims and accused the EU of using crises to push for more integration.

He said: “This is nothing new… crises are being used to iterate EU integration

“Britain joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1972 when they were having a difficult economic situation…

“Sweden and Finland joined the EU after they were experiencing a banking crisis.

“It is nothing new.”

He added: “Look at Iceland…

“There was a lot of uncertainty and eurocrats saw the 2008 economic crisis as an opportunity to get Iceland into the EU.”

Iceland’s Project Fear, just like in the UK, failed.

Political commentator Mehreen Khan wrote in The Telegraph: “Free to operate an independent monetary policy and allow its currency to slide, Iceland was soon brought back from the precipice. Its export sector – dominated by fisheries and energy – quickly began to thrive.

“With the currency acting a natural shock absorber for the economy, wages remained steady and unemployment bottomed out at around nine percent.”

Mr Gunnlaugsson added: “Not being a member of the euro proved indispensable in our quick recovery.

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“There is hardly any doubt that if we would have been members of the EU and the euro at the time, the country would have been bankrupt and put in an economic position more resembling that of Greece than what we see in Iceland today.”

The fantastic reversal of fortunes eliminated any lingering case for EU membership.

Mr Gunnlaugsson’s centre-right coalition government formally withdrew from the accession process in 2015 and public appetite for restarting talks dwindled.

Polls carried out in the wake of the move – which was not put before a referendum – showed an overwhelming 70 percent of Icelanders were happy to remain out of the EU.

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Iceland is in the single market accepting the free movement of goods, services, capital and people to and from EU countries but it is not a member of the eurozone.

It is also not signed up to the Common Agricultural Policy, the Common Fisheries Policy or the customs union, meaning that it can strike its own trade deals with countries outside the bloc.

In 2013, Reykjavik became the first European nation to conclude a trade agreement with China.

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