Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson appears to be a giving a rather strong 'two fingers up' to Britain and the Netherlands at the moment, by refusing to sign the 'Icesave' bill, sending it to the Icelandic people for a referendum instead. The bill in question would see Iceland pay Dutch and Britain savers £3.6 billion in lost deposits from the collapsed bank Icesave, and take on a debt worth around 40% of Iceland's GDP in 2009, equivalent to around 12,000 euros for every Icelandic citizen.
Speaking to Newsnight last night, President Grimsson said "You have to trust the democratic process. You see in France, in the Netherlands, in Ireland, in many European countries, referendums are a normal part of the democratic process."
Is it a coincidence that he selected three countries which chose to ignore the outcome of their referendums on the Lisbon Treaty? They are not the only EU countries to have ever held referendums - so we suspect that by flagging up those three, President Grimsson is making a rather pointed comment, something along the lines of: "just because the EU is afraid of referendums, and chooses to bulldoze over the will of its people, does not mean that Iceland will do the same."
He went on to add, "I know in Britain you don't really have the experience of trusting the people with a referendum, but all over Europe there are countries that trust the people with a referendum."
Hmm...you don't have to be Alan Turing to decode that one either: "Just because Britain reneged on its promise to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty because it didn't think it could trust the people to vote in the 'correct way' doesn't mean we will do the same."
Meanwhile a new poll out today from MMR has found that 58% of respondents in Iceland said they would vote against the bill in the upcoming referendum, to be held on 20 February, and 42% said they would vote in favour of it. Will the polling numbers remain like that? Possibly not. Iceland might see the same not-so-subtle pressure applied to it that Ireland did (in Lisbon Mark II). See comments from Lord Myners yesterday, threatening Iceland with being frozen out of the international financial system, and not being allowed to join the EU, although following it with a "I don't think it's a case of us having to warn them...The Icelandic Government recognised that this was the case."
In all honesty, the EU might have to think twice about extending membership to a country that trusts the people and is willing to put an issue like this to the test.