While pro-Brexit activists denounced the âProject Fearâ tactics deployed during the referendum debate in the United Kingdom, Iceland would have witnessed something closer to âProject Apocalypseâ in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash. where the British are warned of the potentially cataclysmic implications of Brexit, Icelanders say they have been sold a perma-doom story that would plague the island until it becomes a member of the bloc. Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, former Icelandic prime minister, told the Telegraph that the membership debate was dominated by fears about Iceland’s very survival.
He said: âWithout membership we were doomed.
“There was never a discussion about the ideas and nature of the European Union or if it was something the Icelanders wanted to be a part of.
“The candidacy 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 Express.co.uk, historian and head of an Icelandic free market think tank HjÃ¶rtur J. GuÃ°mundsson echoed Mr Gunnlaugsson’s claims and accused the EU of using the crises to push for more integration.
He said: “This is nothing new … crises are used to repeat integration into the EU
“Britain joined the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1972 when it was going through difficult economic times …
âSweden and Finland joined the EU after going through a banking crisis.
“This 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 bring Iceland into the EU.”
The Fear project in Iceland, just like in the UK, failed.
Political commentator Mehreen Khan wrote in The Telegraph: âFree to pursue independent monetary policy and let its currency slide, Iceland was quickly brought back from the precipice. Its export sector – dominated by fishing and energy – quickly began to flourish.
âWith the currency acting as a natural shock absorber for the economy, wages have remained stable and unemployment has hit a low of around 9%. “
Mr Gunnlaugsson added: “Not being a member of the euro has been essential to our rapid recovery.
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Iceland is part of the single market and accepts the free movement of goods, services, capital and people to and from EU countries, but it is not a member of the euro area.
It is also not affiliated with the common agricultural policy, the common fisheries policy or the customs union, which means it can conclude its own trade agreements with countries outside the bloc.
In 2013, Reykjavik became the first European country to conclude a trade deal with China.