Iceland and United Kingdom in diplomatic dispute over financial crisis

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Relations between Iceland and the United Kingdom are deteriorating after the two nations fell out over the current financial crisis. When Iceland nationalised first Landsbanki and then Kaupthing Bank the Financial Services Authority only took on domestic assets, leaving British customers with subsidiary banks out of pocket. While Britain feels Iceland should also pay out to their citizens, Iceland blame the UK for triggering the crisis by using the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 to freeze the UK assets of Icelandic banks.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown says Iceland should pay out up to €20,887 (£16,448) of UK investors' money in the banks, particularly Icesave, an online company owned by Landsbanki which had around 300,000 accounts owned by UK customers. It will cost an estimated 2.4 billion pounds to compensate them, and it looks likely the UK will foot that bill.

Alistair Darling, the U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer, has said that individuals with accounts will see their money again but other accounts are not guaranteed - leaving governmental, corporate and charitable deposits at risk of being lost. UK local authorities could lose £799 million.

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"The prime minister made clear the behavior of the Icelandic authorities had been unacceptable, and we had found it very difficult to get information from them," said Michael Ellam, a spokesperson for Brown. A delegation has been sent to Reykjavik from the UK to try and solve the dispute amicably.

However, fears that the crisis may escalate have led to the pound becoming heavily devalued. The pound hit its lowest level for five years versus the US dollar after Brown threatened to freeze the assets of all Icelandic companies in the UK, which employ around 100,000 people.

The last time the two nations had a dispute, dubbed the Cod Wars, was in the 1970s. Iceland declared an exclusive fishing zone and began to cut the nets of British trawlers entering the area. That dispute came to a head in 1976 when a UK naval vessel with nuclear arms rammed an Icelandic ship that had been cutting nets. After this a compromise was reached to allow a limited number of British ships in the area.

Sources

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